CHRISTIANS across Pakistan took to the streets on Sunday to
demand improved security, after a mob set alight two churches, and
more than 150 homes, in a Christian district of Lahore.
In Lahore, police used tear gas and fired into the air, in an
attempt to disperse more than 1000 protesters who were calling for
compensation for the arson attack, which began after a Christian
was accused of profaning the prophet Muhammad. The demonstrators -
some carrying large crucifixes - had blocked a highway, burned
vehicles, smashed bus windows, and fought with baton-wielding
In Karachi, several hundred protesters stoned Muslim-owned
shops. Smaller demonstrations were held in the capital, Islamabad,
and the adjoining city of Rawalpindi. The Bishop of Peshawar, the
Rt Revd Humphrey Sarfaraz Peter, led 2000 Christians on a march
through the city. He said that a government offer of 200,000 rupees
(£1350) compensation to each family was "eyewash".
Protests were also planned in the UK outside the Pakistani High
Commission in London, and outside consulates in Bradford and
Police reports say that the original arson attack followed a
drunken row last Friday between a Muslim and a Christian from the
Joseph Colony district of Lahore. Later, a mob estimated at 3000
people went to the Christian man's home, accusing him of blasphemy.
Police took him into custody to placate the crowd, but hundreds of
Christian families fled the area overnight. The mob returned on
Saturday, and ransacked houses.
A police official in Lahore, Rai Tahir, said that more than 150
Muslims had been arrested on suspicion of arson. The victims have
dismissed the government's compensation offer, and have demanded
one million rupees (£6750) each.
Akram Gill, Bishop of Pakistan in the Evangelical Friends of
Christ Church, said that the incident had more to do with personal
enmity between the two men than blasphemy. He said that the men got
into a brawl after drinking late one night, and in the morning the
Muslim man had made up the blasphemy story as payback. "Poor people
were living here," he said. "They have lost all of their
belongings. Where can they go now?"
The Pakistan Peoples Party re- signed from the Punjab provincial
assembly of Pervaiz Rafiq, after accusing the Punjabi government of
The Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Mervyn
Thomas, said: "It is absolutely unacceptable that local police did
not take more serious measures to prevent this entirely foreseeable