A mob of 30,000 Pakistani Muslims, believing a Christian damaged a copy of the Qur'an, destroyed three-quarters of the homes in the Christian village of Shantinagar in the Punjab province on February 5.
Rioters also burned the Salvation Army church in Shantinagar to the ground and destroyed the Church of Pakistan and Saint Joseph's Catholic Church in nearby Khanawel. "It was a totally preplanned activity," charged Patras Yusaf, Roman Catholic bishop of Multan.
Police killed two Muslims in the fracas, and at least 20 people suffered serious injuries.
The riot broke out after a mosque in Khanewal, about 200 miles south of Lahore, broadcast over loudspeakers that Christians had ripped pages from the Qur'an and scribbled insults against the prophet Muhammad on the sacred writings of Islam. The announcement was repeated at other area mosques packed with the faithful celebrating Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Christian leaders deny the charge.
Yusaf and other local Christians blame the police for instigating the riot and say officers may have been the ones to throw the pages of the Qur'an into the mosques. In January, Christians protested for three days after a Muslim police officer damaged a Bible during a search. The police officer has been suspended.
One week after the incident, another Christian was wounded by police gunfire in Karachi during a demonstration against the Khanewal riot.
Approximately 3 million of Pakistan's 120 million people are Christians.1
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