Up to 15 church buildings have been attacked and hundreds of Christian homes destroyed after extremists went on the rampage in Pakistan.
Christians from the Punjab town of Jaranwala, near Faisalabad, fled en masse as fanatics began throwing rocks and stones and setting fire to buildings.
The incident follows an accusation of blasphemy against a Christian cleaner accused of desecrating the Qur’an and insulting the Prophet of Islam.
Speaking today (Wednesday) to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the charity for persecuted Christians, Father Abid Tanveer, vicar general of Faisalabad Catholic diocese, reported back from a visit to Jaranwala where he said it was still unsafe.
“This situation has been very terrifying. The Christians are very scared. Please pray for our people, pray that their lives may be protected.
“So many people have lost their belongings, everything. They don’t know what to do or where to go.”
One Christian cleric said up to 2,000 people had so far fled their homes.
He explained that Father Tanveer reported that 13 churches belonging to different Christian denominations had been attacked, a number of them torched, as well as a catechist’s house and a parish house.
Father Khalid, parish priest of St Paul’s, Jaranwala, had to lock himself inside the parish house as extremists surrounded it shouting and demanding he come out.
Eventually they left enabling the priest to leave and shortly after the attackers returned and torched baptismal, marriage and death certificates held in the parish office.
According to local witnesses contacted by ACN, the attackers began throwing furniture out into the streets while calling for the murder of the alleged blasphemer.
One ACN contact in Faisalabad said messages from mosques sent out on loudspeaker were calling on local people to “go out and kill” Christians.
A Christian in Faisalabad told ACN: “It is absolutely terrifying. We do not know what is going to happen next.”
Another leading Pakistan clergy from Faisalabad said: “We totally condemn this act of brutal terrorism.
“The people who attack innocent Christians and burned their homes have a mindset of terrorism.”
As yet there have been no reports of deaths.
Christians from Jaranwala began leaving their homes as early as 5am this morning after local Muslims warned them an attack was coming.
A senior priest told ACN that the threat had not passed and people remained “very frightened”.
“We are so grateful for your concern and your prayers. Please keep praying for us.”
Father Tanveer said additional police had been deployed but there was no guarantee the situation would be brought under control because the extremists were well armed and were still intent on violence in response to the alleged incident of blasphemy.