Guest / Limited Access /

As the prime minister of Pakistan visited the scene of the Muslim nation's worst Christian persecution in recent memory Thursday, observers wondered if the violence will finally prompt the repeal of the country's notorious blasphemy laws.

Rumors of a Qur'an desecration at a Christian wedding in the eastern village of Kurian led to violent demonstrations that culminated August 1 in the destruction of more than 100 Christian houses in nearby Gojra. Eight Christians were killed in the mob violence, including six family members burned alive in their home. Pakistani authorities said the Qur'an desecration allegations were unfounded and that banned Sunni extremist groups in the area had incited the attacks.

The violence in Gojra, a town of 150,000 that has long been a headquarters of the Anglican Church of Pakistan, was one of the worst attacks ever against the religious minority. Christians and human rights groups protested the killings in major cities as Christian schools nationwide closed for three days in symbolic protest.

Old violence, new response

Violence against Christians in the Punjab is sadly nothing new: observers mark over 30 group incidents against Christians since September 11, 2001. And the province was the location of two of Pakistan's most dramatic incidents of persecution: the October 2001 church attack in Bahawalpur that left 16 Christians dead and the February 1997 destruction of the Christian village of Shantinagar.

Punjab is the center of Pakistan's small Christian community—an estimated 3 million in the Muslim nation of 175 million—and home to an estimated 40 militant Islamist groups.

Still, response to this attack was unique. For the first time, TV and online media spread the news widely enough ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueSeven Boring Ways the Church Can Change the World
Subscriber Access Only
Seven Boring Ways the Church Can Change the World
Honestly, it’s nothing radical.
Current Issue
Subscriber Access Only Reply All
Responses to our November issue via letters, tweets, and Facebook posts.
Recommended‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian
‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian
Islamic extremism now has a rival, according to 2017 World Watch List.
TrendingThe Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner
The Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner
What Paula White’s Washington moment implies for the prosperity gospel’s future.
Editor's PickThe Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years
The Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years
It begins by recognizing the name above every name.
Christianity Today
Were Pakistan's Deadly Gojra Riots Enough to Provoke Change?
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

August 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.