On August 6, 2023, a tragic incident occurred in Jaranwala, a rural area near Faisalabad, where dozens of churches and homes belonging to the Christian workers and labourers were set ablaze. The arson was carried out by local leaders and religious organizations under false allegations of blasphemy, all in plain sight of the police. Thousands of Christians workers and their families had to flee their homes to save their lives.
From the beginning, there was clear evidence of state support for the religious hooligans involved, but due to a strong public backlash, authorities had to momentarily show sympathy with the affected Christians. However, as public attention shifted to issues like poverty and unemployment, the government resumed its oppressive tactics. A large-scale state crackdown is ongoing against the Christian working-class community, especially in central and northern Punjab, including Faisalabad.
Young workers from Christian communities are being arrested on false charges like selling excessive amounts of alcohol and drug trafficking, and they face severe abuse in police custody. Police checkpoints have been established in entire areas, where raids are being conducted on homes, crossing all boundaries of misconduct and state-sponsored hooliganism.
Moreover, the religious coercion against the Christian community is increasing under full state patronage. Banners have been hung in various areas by “unknown individuals,” warning the Christian community of more incidents like Jaranwala. Reports have been received from many Christian communities that religious organizations, with the endorsement of the police, have started regular patrols under the pretext of “preventing blasphemy against Islam.
Similarly, incidents of increasing violence against Christians are coming to light in various places. These incidents are often justified by minor transactions or disagreements and involve influential local individuals. In Chak 8, a rural area near Faisalabad, a disabled Christian worker was also killed under such circumstances. In various cities, inflammatory speeches filled with threats are being delivered from mosques located in Christian neighborhoods, and it’s evident that these activities are being carried out with full state support.
In the rural area of Mandiala Waridch near Gujranwala, daytime shootings have been carried out on churches and Christian homes by “unknown individuals.”
Likewise, in a rural village near Faisalabad called Khanwana, extremist slogans were first written on the walls of a local church, followed by a violent attack that severely injured the church’s priest.
In Lahore, specifically in the area of Chung Dogitch, a Christian woman has been charged under Section 295B on extremely dubious grounds of blasphemy. This has spread fear and panic throughout the community, forcing many Christian families to temporarily leave the area. It should be noted that 99% of the Christians who are targeted by this state crackdown and religious coercion belong to the working class.
The main perpetrators of the Jaranwala incident, affiliated with various religious organizations, are openly threatening the Christian community in broad daylight. Meanwhile, Punjab police are shifting the blame for the incident, sometimes pointing to Indian intelligence agencies and at other times attributing it to personal disputes within the Christian community.
It’s worth noting that right after the incident, attempts were made through social media accounts run by “unknown individuals” to blame the Ahmadi community for the tragedy. This scapegoating has led to attacks on Ahmadi places of worship in Karachi and Lahore over the last three weeks, all under police surveillance. Ahmadi community are a minority religious sect who are being attacked regularly by fundamentalists from the majority religious sects.
Despite the Christian community’s insistence, the FIR for the Jaranwala incident neither named the actual culprits nor included the victims as complainants. This pattern of state oppression against the Christian community isn’t random; it appears to be part of a deliberate agenda. Notably, the affected minority community has started to seek legal action against the religious hooligans involved, breaking the usual cycle of fear and silence.
Pakistan Tarde Union Solidarity stands in solidarity with the Christian working class in Pakistan and strongly condemns state and religious oppression against them. We believe the struggle against religious and economic exploitation of Christian workers should be integrated into the general struggle of the Pakistani working class. Only a united struggle of workers can root out the social, economic, and political exploitations of the rulers.