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Pakistan: More than 100 Arrested After Churches Burned

More than 100 people have been arrested in a city in east Pakistan after thousands of Muslims burned churches and vandalised homes.

Violence in Jaranwala was sparked by claims that two Christian men had torn pages from a copy of the Quran.

The historic Salvation Army Church was still smouldering on Thursday, one day after the riot.

Ruins have been surrounded with barbed wire as the situation remains tense in the city.

Public gatherings have also been restricted for seven days in Faisalabad district, which includes Jaranwala.

The two men accused of damaging the Quran, Islam’s holy book, have been arrested and are being investigated for blasphemy, which is punishable by death in Pakistan.

While some have been sentenced to death, it has never been carried out. However a mere accusation of blasphemy can result in widespread riots, sometimes leading to lynchings and killings.

A local official told BBC Urdu that authorities had received calls about protests and fires early on Wednesday morning, after reports about the desecration of the Quran circulated in the city and on social media.

Authorities said torn pages of the sacred text with blasphemous content allegedly scribbled on them in red marker ink were found near a Christian community.

The reports sparked outrage among the Muslim community, and the violence that ensued saw mobs attacking and looting private homes belonging to Christians.

Police told the BBC that possessions belonging to Christians were pulled into the streets and set on fire.

Yassir Bhatti, a 31-year-old Christian, was one of those forced to flee their homes.

“They broke the windows, doors and took out fridges, sofas, chairs and other household items to pile them up in front of the Church to be burnt,” he told AFP news agency.

“They also burnt and desecrated Bibles, they were ruthless.”

Source : BBC