By Kashif Nawab
A significant gathering of British Pakistani Christians staged a demonstration at the Pakistan High Commission in London, raising their voices against the recent violent attack that unfolded in Jaranwala, Pakistan. The attack, which targeted 21 churches and hundreds of Christian homes, was carried out by a large mob of Muslim extremists over alleged allegations of desecration of the Quran and Prophet Muhammad.
The protesters came together under the banner of “Christian Lives Matter,” expressing their solidarity with the affected families who have not only lost their homes but also their sense of security and hard-earned belongings. Holding placards with slogans like “No More Christian Persecution in Pakistan,” the demonstrators demanded justice and significant reforms to ensure the protection of religious minorities and equal rights for all citizens in Pakistan.
During his address at the demonstration, Joseph Jansen, an advocacy officer with Jubilee Campaign Netherlands, expressed deep concern over the exploitation of religious sentiment under blasphemy laws, which led to the violent attack. He emphasized that the slogan “Lab bak Lab bak ya rasool Allah,” which should invoke prayer and unity, was twisted into a call for destruction and violence. Jansen condemned the false allegations of desecration as a pretext for the brutal attack, where chemicals and petrol were used to set homes and places of worship ablaze.
The demonstrators acknowledged the failure of local police and security agencies to protect citizens during the attack, leaving them vulnerable to the violence of extremists. This failure was deemed a shameful mark on the state and its security apparatus.
Pastor Ajmal Chaughti stated that while Pakistan reacts strongly to the treatment of Muslims globally, labeling it as Islamophobia, it dismisses genuine issues concerning religious freedom, including complaints of the misuse of blasphemy laws and forced religious conversions faced by minorities within Pakistan. Chaughti called for an end to double standards based on religious affiliation and stressed the need for equal treatment of all citizens.
Asif Mall from the Alliance of Pakistan Christian Organisations highlighted the urgency of addressing crimes against Christians and ensuring justice. He recalled the violence in Shanti Nagar, Khanewal, in 1997, and the subsequent lack of accountability for those responsible.
The demonstrators concluded that these tragic events reflect the urgent need for reforms in Pakistan, including justice for victims, protection of religious minorities, and the end of discrimination based on faith.
Advocate Qamar Shams expressed disheartenment over how individuals incited violence through mosque loudspeakers, leading to the destruction of Christian homes, churches, and even a cemetery. The fact that Christians had to spend nights hiding in fields to protect the lives of their children is a painful testament to the state of religious intolerance and fear they were subjected to.
The incident of August 16 will forever remain etched in our memories as a Black Day for religious minorities in Pakistan. The violence, destruction, and fear experienced by our fellow brothers and sisters were a direct assault on the principles of harmony, coexistence, and respect that should underpin any society. No one should ever have to live in fear for their faith or their lives.
The protesters urged the Pakistani government to heed their demands and take concrete actions to ensure a more inclusive, tolerant, and just society for all its citizens.