17 August 2023
Responding to the attack and arson of at least five Churches and many Christian homes in Jaranwala in Pakistan, Rehab Mahamoor, interim regional researcher for South Asia at Amnesty International said:
“The Pakistani authorities must urgently ensure the protection of the minority Christian community in Jaranwala is accordance to their needs and wishes and that those found responsible for the arson and attacks on Churches and homes are held accountable. Such attacks add to the climate of discrimination and fear for religious minorities.
“The authorities in Pakistan must immediately address the climate of impunity around violence against religious minorities. The vicious mob attacks are just the latest manifestation of the threat of vigilante violence which anyone can face in Pakistan after a blasphemy accusation – with religious minorities disproportionately vulnerable to the same. The existence of blasphemy laws continue to embolden groups and individuals who threaten, attack or attempt to kill the accused, or anyone connected, including members of their community.
“Pakistani authorities need no more evidence to see how dangerous the blasphemy laws are. The broad, vague and coercive nature of the blasphemy laws violate the human rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom of expression. They have long been misused to target some of the most marginalized people in society.
“The blasphemy laws should be repealed as a matter of urgency and in the meantime, the authorities should put in place effective safeguards against their abuse. By ignoring the longstanding call to repeal the blasphemy laws and instead strengthen them by attempting to increase the punishment under such laws, Pakistani authorities continue to create a permissive environment for human rights violations.”
After allegations of blasphemy made against two Christian residents of Jaranwala, in the district of Faisalabad, vigilante mobs attacked at least five churches in the area.
Earlier this year, on 7 August 2023 a teacher accused of blasphemy in Turbat was shot and killed. In February 2023, in Nankana, a man accused of desecrating the Quran was dragged out of a police station by a vigilante mob and beaten to death. Similarly, in December 2021, a Sri Lankan man accused of blasphemy was lynched to death.
Amnesty International has previously documented how the blasphemy laws enable abuse in its report, “As good as dead”: The impact of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.