UCA News
Contribute

Pakistan Christians return home amid uneasy calm after attack

At least 50 families have returned to the Mujahid colony in Sargodha district in Punjab province
Police stand guard outside the rehabilitated Saint John Church, months after attacks over alleged blasphemy, in Jaranwala in Punjab province on Dec. 25, 2023. On May 25 this year, another mob attack took place over blasphemy in the vital province.

Police stand guard outside the rehabilitated Saint John Church, months after attacks over alleged blasphemy, in Jaranwala in Punjab province on Dec. 25, 2023. On May 25 this year, another mob attack took place over blasphemy in the vital province. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 29, 2024 11:21 AM GMT
Updated: May 30, 2024 04:07 AM GMT

Christians have started returning home amid a tense calm after the May 25 mob attack over blasphemy on their colony in eastern Pakistan.

At least 50 families have returned to the Mujahid colony in Sargodha district in Punjab province. More than 200 families, half of them Catholics, had fled after a 74-year-old Christian, Nazir Masih, was attacked by a mob for alleged blasphemy. 

Investigation officer Khizar Hayat claimed that the situation was now peaceful. “There is an increased police presence to reassure the local community. Twenty-eight persons have been jailed,” Hayat told UCA News on May 29.

Masih was accused of burning pages of the Quran. He suffered severe injuries and is reported to be undergoing treatment in a hospital. His family was rescued by the police but their whereabouts are unknown.

The attackers continued the rampage and ransacked two houses. The charred walls of Masih’s shoe factory that were set on fire by the mob have been whitewashed by police.

Punjab Minister for Minorities Affairs Ramesh Singh Arora visited the colony on May 27 and conveyed the measures taken by Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz to ensure peace.

He warned of stern action against the members of the mob who attacked Masih.

The Sargodha district police have arrested more than 100 persons. A case has been registered against more than 400 suspects under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Meanwhile, the Catholic family of Imran Yousaf, who returned home on May 28 said they are still apprehensive.

“The fear has not left us. We still feel it is a risk,” said Yousaf who is particularly worried about the safety of his elderly parents.

The 28-year-old said he was assured of their safety by Father David John, parish priest of Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Mujahid colony.

After the mob attack, Yousaf had taken his family to Lahore, the provincial capital, where he works as a pharmacy technician in a hospital.

“They [the mob] were in thousands. At least 70 percent of them were from surrounding villages. Christians in rural areas are now more vulnerable to attacks,” Yousaf added.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) has urged the administration to ensure the security of Christians in Punjab which witnessed another mob attack over blasphemy at Jaranwala in August last year.

“This attack once again exposes the failure of the state in curbing extremism and violence despite the directive by the Supreme Court,” said Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and chairperson of the NCJP.

The NCJP has asked the Punjab government to curb registering “false blasphemy charges” against Christians.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan. But no one has been executed by the government.

However, in numerous cases, mob lynching has taken place in the South Asian nation of 241 million people where Christians make up less than 1.59 percent.

The draconian blasphemy law in the Islamic nation is often used against Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Ahmadi minority communities to settle personal scores. Last year, five blasphemy cases were registered against Christians in Sargodha district alone.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia