ASIA/PAKISTAN - After wave of violence in Jaranwala: First chapel reopened for services

Wednesday, 6 September 2023 christianity   sacraments  

Multan (Agenzia Fides) - "I have resumed the daily morning Mass in the Catholic Chapel of St. John, which had been burned down during the violence of August 16. We have also resumed the celebration of the other sacraments. I am happy, and the faithful are happy. However, the other chapel of Jesus of Nazareth is still impassable and the parish church dedicated to St. Paul, with the rectory next to it, still needs to be cleaned and restored", reports Father Khalid Mukhtar, a Catholic priest in the Faisalabad Diocese of Punjab, Pakistan, and parish priest in Jaranwala, the area devastated by mass violence against Christian homes and churches last August. "The government continues to support the rebuilding of the churches, people continue to repair their houses. Small steps are being taken towards normalcy, but the children are still not going to school. And people are still traumatized and need help. We are happy the many gestures of solidarity by Christians and Muslims that bring us comfort," the parish priest told Fides. He reports that of the 700 Catholic families in the community, about 300 have been affected in some way by the violence. "Citizens have received financial compensation and are working fervently, but we vacillate between tiredness and hope," he says. In the meantime, police investigations continue on the roots of the incident. According to local police officials, the violence allegedly broke out after three Christians threw pages of the Koran outside the home of two other Christians, then accused them of blasphemy amid a private dispute based on the law. Pakistani police are still trying to clarify the details of the incident that sparked the mass violence. Meanwhile, the three suspects who may have started the false blasphemy case against Raja Amir and his brother, who were initially charged and arrested, have been arrested. Father Khalid Mukhtar confirms that he learned about the arrest of the three men linked to the case (in addition, around 200 Muslims were arrested for vandalism) and states: "It is not yet clear what happened. We are waiting for official confirmation and for the matter to be fully resolved. However, if it turns out that the case was engineered and fabricated by Christian citizens, it would be a very serious fact.
You don't play with fire, you have to think about the reactions and consequences of senseless actions", he points out, lamenting the instrumentalization of the blasphemy law in this context. According to the current provisions (three articles of the Penal Code) in Pakistan, a person guilty of insulting Islam can be sentenced to life imprisonment or even the death penalty. Often, however, simple accusations are enough to prompt violence and lynchings. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 6/9/2023)