Broken glass, ashes and piles of rubble. These are what remains of the Christian churches and homes in Jaranwala, Pakistan, that were burned in a surge of mob violence last week.
Images and video obtained by Fox News Digital show the ransacking of churches by an apparent Muslim-led mob in Jaranwala on Aug. 16, an action provoked by allegations that a Christian and his friend had blasphemed by ripping pages out of a Quran. Tumultuous crowds were filmed going into churches, tossing furniture out windows, smashing altars and setting fire to the buildings.
Many Christians were also forced to flee their homes to escape the attackers. When the riots quelled, and they returned to their dwellings, they found their property stolen and homes burned.
“I saw with tears in my eyes how the mob desecrated crosses on the roofs of the churches and in graveyards and ruined church buildings. They burnt so many Bibles and altars,” said the Rev. Deacon Daud Irshad, 28.
Irshad, a seminary student who serves the poor in nearby Faisalabad, told Fox News Digital that he and a friend heard about the calls for violence against Christians that day and immediately departed for Jaranwala. He said he witnessed the rioting and looting firsthand and filmed some of the violence on a smartphone so the world would know what was happening to Christians there.
“The condition in Pakistan is very bad,” Irshad said, casting doubt on the blasphemy allegations that instigated the riots. “So much hatred, jealousy, envy and enmity from the Muslims towards Christians. It seems that we Christians are like animals to them. Whenever they want to kill, they kill, and whenever they want to spare, they give free hand.”
By his account, more than 25 churches were damaged and hundreds of homes attacked. Irshad said rioters first looted property from the buildings and then used flammable liquids to set them on fire.
“They looted the dowry of a young girl who was to get married soon,” Irshad told Fox News Digital. “They looted the animals and good things.”
There are 4.2 million Christians living in Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, China, India and Iran. But in a country of 229 million people, that is only 1.8% of the population. The vast majority, 96.5%, are Muslims, followed by 2.1% Hindus.
Officially, the rights of religious minorities are protected by the constitution of Pakistan. There are laws against compelled conversion, and a National Action Plan against terrorism includes actions by law enforcement to counter sectarian hate speech and violent religious extremism.
But critics say the government has failed to secure those rights. Open Doors, a Christian charity that serves persecuted churches throughout the world, reports that Christians in Pakistan are considered second-class citizens. The country was seventh on the charity’s worldwide list of the worst places to be a Christian.