The police were guarding a Christian neighborhood in Pakistan following attacks on the church by Muslim men. The violence broke out after members of the Christian minority were accused of blasphemy.

Police were guarding a Christian neighborhood in Pakistan on Thursday after hundreds of Muslim men rampaged through its streets, burning and ransacking churches and homes over accusations of blasphemy a day earlier.

The violence broke out in Jaranwala, on the outskirts of the industrial city of Faisalabad, after allegations spread that Christians had desecrated the Koran, forcing families to flee their homes.

On Thursday morning, hundreds of police were deployed in the area, including outside the main Salvation Army Church that had been gutted by fire, its walls and windows blackened.

The day before, rioters had hammered the cross atop the church until it split apart, to cheers from crowds below.

“All the Christians have left their homes and taken refuge here and there,” Fayaz Masih Khokhar, a Christian man who had traveled from nearby Lahore, informed. 

At least four churches and seven houses were attacked, a police official reported. 

A spokesperson for the Punjab provincial government said more than 100 people had been arrested, with police also seeking to arrest the people accused of defiling the Muslim holy book.

Washington on Wednesday voiced alarm at the latest attacks and urged Pakistan to launch an investigation.

US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said that while the United States backed free expression, “violence or the threat of violence is never an acceptable form of expression.”

Pakistan’s newly appointed caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said on X that “stern action would be taken against those who violate law and target minorities.”

Miroslava Salazar, with AFP