Mass Violence After Blasphemy Accusations

pk riots 2023 08 lg
A video screenshot of the recent riots in Pakistan.
View the video.

On August 16th, thousands of people stormed a Christian colony in Jaranwala, a town located in the Faisalabad district of Punjab. Angered by allegations of blasphemy, and spurred on by urgent announcements that had been broadcasted over mosque loudspeakers, the incited mob either damaged or utterly destroyed up to 26 church buildings and as many as 400 homes. Thankfully, there were no reports of casualties following this recent attack. Please take the time to view the informative video alert that VOMC released the next day, which includes footage of the actual attacks.

This incident was sparked after two Christian brothers, named Rocky Saleem Masih and Raja Amir Saleem Masih, had been burning waste paper. Accusations that they were desecrating pages of the Quran ensued. Three local men also produced a letter that allegedly contained blasphemous comments about Muhammad. The brothers have been detained and charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Members of the military and police force were called in to stop the rampage, and their emergency intervention eventually settled the protestors. While the violence had abated in the days that followed, underlying tensions remain. The government has publicly condemned the attacks, and more than 100 warrants of arrest have been issued against the rioters. Governing leaders have promised to help the victims rebuild, but the survivors are sceptical.

On the Sunday following the attacks, the victimized Christians gathered for worship, but with apprehension. "We used to come here without any fear, but today we need the police," stated Nosheen Farman, who was unable to return to her burned home. At the Salvation Army church, around 200 Christians sat on chairs in an alley, amidst the rubble of their destroyed building. Worshippers were urged to remain steadfast in their faith, especially those who had experienced tremendous loss.

While the attacks are considered the result of a planned attempt to disrupt peace, not all Muslims in the area have sided with the rioters. In fact, at least one local mosque has announced that its facility is available to be used for Christian prayer services while the rebuilding takes place.

Tensions remain high in a country that's renowned for the violence of militants sparked by allegations of blasphemy. In Sahiwal, a city located about 100 kilometres south of Faisalabad, an attack of similar outrage was narrowly averted on August 20th. Ehsaan Shan Masih, a member of the Sahiwal Baptist Church, came across a video about the Jaranwala incident and shared the post on social media. Militant Islamic leaders in the area quickly called for protests, claiming that the Christian had committed blasphemy. Due to the timely intervention of police, thankfully the violence was prevented, and Ehsaan and his family were taken into protective custody. However, as demands were made for an arrest, the accused believer has been formally charged and remanded.

Please remember to pray for the hundreds of believers in Jaranwala who have been terribly affected by this most recent incident of senseless violence. In the aftermath of the riots, may the Lord greatly comfort our Christian family in Pakistan and provide His divine protection from further attacks. Ask that He would also meet the practical needs of all those who have lost so much – not only providing for their daily sustenance, but also the funds required to rebuild their homes and church buildings. Additionally, please pray for Rocky, Raja and Ehsaan, who are now facing allegations of blasphemy – along with the many other Pakistani Christians already imprisoned on similar charges – asking that they would be found innocent and kept safe from vigilante violence.

  • Current Ministry Projects

    VOMC partners to train Christian women in sewing skills throughout Pakistan to provide a sustainable source of income for their families and encourage them in their faith and witness for Christ.

    Project Funds: Families of Martyrs, Women’s Ministry

  • Country Information

    Population
    247,653,551 (2023 est.)

    Ethnicity (%)
    Punjabi (44.7), Pashtun [Pathan] (15.4), Sindhi (14.1), Saraiki (8.4) Muhajirs (7.6) Balochi (3.6), Other (6.3)

    Religion (%)
    Islam (96.5), Other - Christian and Hindu (3.5)

    Leader
    President Asif Ali Zardari (2024)

    Government type
    Federal parliamentary republic

    Legal system
    Common law system with Islamic law influence

    Source: CIA World Factbook

  • Pray for Pakistan

    Pray that amendments will be made to Pakistan's existing blasphemy laws so that the country's citizens – including its children – will be protected from injustice and abuse. May our Lord's mercy and justice prevail, not only in the judiciary system but also in the hearts of the country's militants. Ask Him to transform their "hearts of stone" into hearts that are receptive to His love, mercy and the workings of His Holy Spirit – not only for the purpose of protecting the Christian minority but also for the salvation of their own eternal souls.

Pakistan News

  • Blasphemy Conviction for Online Posts
    Furniture and possessions are strewn on a street. Some of them are burning.
    The riots in 2023.
    Photo: Morning Star News

    In August 2023, the Christian colony of Jaranwala was filled with violence after allegations of blasphemy were made against two brothers. During the rampage, as many as 400 homes and 26 church buildings were damaged or destroyed. For more details, and to view video footage of the attacks, see this page.

  • Wife of Nazir Masih Dies of a Heart Attack
    Naseem and Nazir
    Naseem and Nazir
    Photo: Morning Star News
     

    In May, shocking images of mob violence were revealed after 74-year-old Nazir Masih was falsely accused of burning pages from the Quran. The elderly Christian man was fatally wounded during the resulting mob violence, which also led to the destruction of his shoemaking business, along with several attacks against other Christians. Further details on the violent rampage are available here.

  • Christian Falsely Accused of Blasphemy Succumbs to Injuries
    A fire is burning in the street. People are milling about in the background. Nazir Masih's photo is also in a corner of the image.
    Angered mob members burned
    Nazir Masih's belongings in the street.
    Photos: ECSPE

    On May 25th, an angry mob rampaged through a Christian community in Sargodha, Punjab, instigated by false allegations that a 74-year-old Christian man named Nazir Masih had burned pages of the Quran. For more details on the attack, see this report. With deep sorrow, we regret to announce that Nazir succumbed to his injuries just after midnight on June 3rd.

  • Allegations Lead to Mob Violence
    A fire is burning in the street. People are milling about in the background.
    Angered mob members burned
    Nazir Masih's belongings in the street.
    Photo: ECSPE

    An angry mob consisting of hundreds of people rampaged through a Christian community in Sargodha, Punjab, on May 25th. Thankfully, police were able to disperse the crowd with tear gas and rescue at least two Christian families whose homes had been surrounded. However, significant damages took place during the mob attack, and 74-year-old Nazir Masih was left with life-threatening injuries. Stirred up by Islamic clerics who accused Nazir of blasphemy, the mob ransacked and burned the Christian man's home and shoemaking business. The crowd also attacked other Christians in the community and threw stones at responding police, injuring at least ten officers.