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Pakistan to compensate Christians after blasphemy riots

Timothy Jones
August 21, 2023

Pakistani authorities say they will compensate nearly 100 Christians who lost their homes to a Muslim mob. The rioters were angered by reports of the alleged desecration of Islam's holy book, the Quran.

Local residents look at the rubble of homes and church vandalized by an angry Muslim mob
The rioting caused huge damage in Jaranwala in the district of FaisalabadImage: K.M. Chaudary/AP Photo/picture alliance

Christians who had their homes destroyed last week by Muslim rioters outraged by the alleged desecration of a Quran by a Christian man and his friend will be compensated to the tune of 2 million rupees (€6,236; $6,800), Pakistani officials said on Monday.

In the incident last Wednesday, a mob rampaged through Christian neighborhoods, burning at least 16 churches and damaging houses in their fury.

The two men accused of the desecration, which allegedly involved ripping pages out of the Quran and throwing them on the ground while writing insulting remarks on other pages, have been arrested, along with 160 suspected rioters so far.

What have authorities said about compensation?

The promise of compensation was made by the top official in the southern province of Punjab, Mohsin Naqvi, on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

He said all people who were hurt financially by the attacks would receive the compensation in the next 48 hours. Naqvi also said repair work had begun on churches to restore them to their original condition.

Hundreds of Christians who left their homes amid the rioting and have since returned were reported to be living outside the burned buildings for fear they might collapse. 

A Christian graveyard was also desecrated in Wednesday's violence, authorities said.

Pakistan has strict blasphemy laws, under which anyone found guilty of insulting Islam can be given a death sentence. Although no one has yet been executed for the offense, mere accusations have in the past led to mob violence.

Pakistan is overwhelmingly Muslim, but just over 1% of the population, or 2.6 million people, identified as Christian in a 2017 census. That makes Christians the second-largest religious minority in the country after Hindus.

This article draws on information from The Associated Press.

Edited by: Farah Bahgat