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.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedInto the Fiery Furnace: Christian Couple in Pakistan Burned for 'Blasphemy'
Into the Fiery Furnace: Christian Couple in Pakistan Burned for 'Blasphemy'
(UPDATED) Prime minister pledges justice after mob kills pregnant wife and husband.
TrendingWhite Christians: It's Time to Stand in Solidarity With Your Black Brothers and Sisters
White Christians: It's Time to Stand in Solidarity With Your Black Brothers and Sisters
The history that led us to Ferguson. A guest post by Christena Cleveland
Editor's PickA Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond?
A Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond?
The grand jury has made a decision in Ferguson, now we have to make ours. How will we respond?
Comments
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.