LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistani Christians held Sunday services in churches that were vandalized and set on fire by a vigilante mob last week after two Christian brothers were accused of desecrating the Koran.
Services in a handful of churches in the eastern Pakistani town of Jaranwala were led by the bishop of the diocese, Christian community leader Akmal Bhatti said. He attended one of the services, which drew hundreds of Christians whose homes were partially or completely destroyed when mobs burned and looted them on Wednesday.
The pastors then distributed food rations to those affected, Bhatti said.
The provincial government said in a statement on Sunday that compensation of two million rupees ($6,751.05) had been approved for each of the affected families.
Paramilitary troops guard the sites of the arson attacks in Jaranwala, Punjab province. Sites attacked included the historic Salvation Army Church and St. Paul’s Catholic Church, three smaller churches and dozens of homes.
A Christian cemetery was also desecrated, residents and community leaders said, adding that the mob armed with iron bars, sticks, bricks, knives and daggers went on a rampage without any intervention from the police and administrative authorities who had been present there for more than 10 hours.
The police denied this, saying it had prevented a worse situation.
Clerics from a banned Islamist political party – Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) – led the campaign that culminated in violence, according to residents and government sources.
The TLP denied this, saying it had joined the police to calm the situation.
Police have arrested and are investigating the two Christian men accused of blasphemy, and said they arrested nearly 160 people involved in the mob attack.
Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan, but no one has ever been executed. Many people accused of blasphemy have been lynched by outraged mobs in the past. A former provincial governor and a minister for minorities have been shot dead for trying to reform the blasphemy law.
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