Violence flares after dispute between teenagers and imam
Tensions remained high in a Christian community in Francisabad today after a Muslim mob attacked shops, houses and vehicles yesterday. About 20 shops were damaged, and three Christian youths were injured when police used batons to disperse the crowds.
The attack followed an altercation earlier yesterday when an imam accused several Christian youths of showing disrespect for Islam by playing music outside a mosque, according to Saqib Khadim of The Social Transformation Association for Native Community’s Education, a local NGO.
“We gathered weapons out of fear of an attack. It was a restless night,” Khadim said. “While the priests and community elders held meetings with police officials, armed youth remained stationed at churches and crossroads.” Police in at least eight vehicles were still guarding the community today to prevent a repeat of yesterday's violence.
A report filed with the local police said about 500 Muslims were involved in the attack.
About 200 families live in Francisabad, one of the largest Christian settlements in Gujranwala district.
Last month a mob rampaged through Joseph Colony in neighboring Lahore, following allegations that a Christian had insulted the Prophet Mohammed. Two churches and 178 houses were torched in the incident.
“The Christian community has not yet come out of the trauma caused by the Joseph Colony attack in Lahore and now this latest attack in Gujranwala shows the reality of how easily they can be attacked,” said Samson Salamat, Director of the Centre for Human Rights Education in a statement.
“The situation is very alarming in terms of the safety and security of the religious minorities. We demand that the Punjab Government seriously concentrate to stop these atrocities."
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