Church compound destroyed by Muslim rioters in Pakistan

September 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia, Pakistan, Persecution

Church compound destroyed by muslim rioters in pakistan
Christians survey the wreckage at St Paul’s Church in Mardan

Pakistan, September 25, 2012:  A church, Christian school and library, and the homes of two pastors and the head teacher, were looted and torched in Muslim riots against the anti-Islam film in Pakistan.

Friday (21 September) was declared a national holiday, “Love for the Prophet Day”, by the Pakistani government amid violent protests over Innocence of Muslims that have hit around 20 countries. The government encouraged peaceful demonstrations in Pakistan, but the day descended into clashes between protestors and police that left at least 20 people dead.

The compound of St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was set upon by hundreds of rioters armed with clubs and sticks. They looted the church building and smashed furniture before setting the premises alight.

They raided the adjacent church-run school, taking newly-installed computers, and also torched that building. Because the day had been declared a national holiday, none of the school’s 500 primary and secondary pupils were present.

A library on the site containing more than 3,000 books about the Bible and more than 6,000 books about other religions, including Islam, was burned down by the protestors in an act that would itself be considered blasphemous under Pakistani law.

The homes of two church leaders and the head teacher, within the compound, were also destroyed, along with a car and nine bikes.

The attack continued for more than three hours, with minimal efforts by the authorities to stop it.

The local church leader said that he thought it was pre-planned because the assailants had arrived with petrol and other materials to start a fire.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack on the church compound, saying that such incidents portrayed the country and Muslims negatively. Interior Minister Rehman Malik ordered an inquiry into the attack and promised that security would be provided to all churches in the country.

Around 64 suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Christians in Pakistan have shown solidarity with Muslims by publicly condemning the film, which depicts Muhammad as fraudulent and depraved, and have even joined in peaceful protests against it. But this has not prevented them from being targeted by those wanting revenge for Innocence of Muslims. At one peaceful protest outside a church in Hyderabad on 16 September, men on motorbikes shot at Christian and Hindu demonstrators.

In another incident on 18 September, Christian workers at a hospital in Hyderabad were threatened by protestors who damaged doors and windows to the building. A Christian-run hospital in Quetta had to close its gates when a mob of hostile Muslims gathered outside.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in Pakistan, where the penal code prescribes the death penalty for defiling the name of Muhammad and life imprisonment for desecration of the Quran.

– barnabas team

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