Following an accusation of “blasphemy” of the Quran, Islamic extremists set ablaze more than 50 houses and a church in the town of Gojra in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, August 1. At least 14 Christians died in the attacks. The dead include women and children, with several other burn victims unable to reach hospitals for medical care, according to the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).
Clerics at local mosques broadcasted messages that those “who love Muhammad and Islam should gather with them to defend the Islam because it is in danger,” according to CLAAS and reported by Compass. As the crowd size grew, the attacks intensified. The Islamists managed to block main roads and railways to keep fire brigades from fighting the house fires. Authorities, in an effort to keep more Muslims extremists from entering from neighboring villages, blocked the roads into Gojra. Another six people died when Islamists shot at police and the police responded in return with tear gas and gunfire.
The same rumor of desecration of the Quran prompted an arson assault by Islamic extremists on the village of Korian last Thursday. At least 60 houses were gutted in that attack. Punjab Minister for Law Rana Sanaullah reportedly said an initial investigation of allegations of the Quran being blasphemed indicated “there has not been any incident of desecration.” Pakistan is ranked No. 13 on the 2009 Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians.
Father we pray for the victims of these heinous and violent crimes, asking for Your peace that passes all understanding to dwell in their hearts and homes. We bring before You the families enduring the loss of a loved one. Father, please replace their pain with love and forgiveness. We trust to You their comfort and ask that You empower believers in Pakistan to stand strong in their faith in You. Amen.