Gulshan BARKAT, OMI
Oblates in Pakistan participate in a peaceful protest against Christianophobia after the recent events where Christians were violently attacked and their churches torched.
Hundreds of Christian families are directly affected
Unexpectedly, on 16 August 2023, 350 Christian families in the town of Jaranwala, 40 km from the regional city of Faisalabad in central Pakistan, were the victims of religion-based violence simply because they were Christians. This is the most recent outbreak of continuing incidents of Christianophobia plaguing Pakistan.
Twenty-one Christian churches attacked and set on fire
Leaders of a fundamentalist political party and local Muslim leaders incited a mob of mostly young Muslim men to attack and burn 21 Christian churches and to drive the Christian people out of town and into hiding. The mob destroyed Christian homes and defiled Christian graves in the Christian cemetery.
False accusations made against Christians
As always in such cases of Christianophobia in Pakistan, the reason for this religious violence was a false accusation made against Christians of disrespecting the Quran. It has always been shown that these accusations lack any foundation. Christians are easy targets for these false accusations because they are considered defenseless members of a religious minority in Pakistan.
Three Catholic churches in Jaranwala were burnt and vandalized
The altars were destroyed, the statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and saints and holy images were smashed, and Missals and Holy Bibles were burnt and desecrated. The Tabernacle in one of the Catholic churches was pulled from the wall and smashed, and the Blessed Sacrament was desecrated. These have been horror-filled days for Pakistani Christians in Jaranwala who had just finished celebrating Pakistan Independence Day on 14 August.
Christians are terrified, and their lives are in danger
The mob was violent. The Christians of Jaranwala were terrified, and their lives were in danger. Some, however, were protected by their Muslim neighbors. The police arrived late and did nothing to stop the mob of about 7,000 Muslims from terrorizing the streets. Bishops and religious leaders in Pakistan have strongly voiced their protests.
Violation of the constitutional and legal rights of Pakistani Christians
Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court of Pakistan visited Jaranwala on 19 August to express his anger at this violation of the constitutional and legal rights of Pakistani Christians. The Pakistani interim prime minister, the interim chief minister of Punjab, and national Muslim leaders have acknowledged that this religious violence in Jaranwala has shamed Pakistan and humiliated it internationally.
Muslim religious authorities offer an apology to Christians in Pakistan
The national political leaders and Muslim religious authorities have apologized to Christians in Pakistan. They are collaborating with the leaders of Christian churches to bring about reconciliation which will identify and acknowledge the root causes of Christianophobia in Pakistan and which will work toward equality for all Pakistanis irrespective of their religion.
Pics supplied by Fr. Gulshan BARKAT OMI, Superior, Oblate Scholasticate in Karachi, Pakistan.