In the United States, it is easy to take for granted our first amendment right to the freedom of religion. For centuries, citizens of America have enjoyed the liberty to worship as they please, openly or in private, as members of any organized religion on earth. Indeed, even before the establishment of the United States, the founding roots of many of the original thirteen English colonies can be traced back to small groups of European settlers seeking a place to freely worship in a particular denomination of Christianity without persecution. Recent events which occurred in Pakistan are a stark reminder that not every nation is as tolerant as America. A mob of Muslims numbering as many as 10,000 men looted, plundered and razed Christian communities in the country.
Near the town of Jaranwala in the eastern part of the country, 129 Muslims were arrested after a dozen churches and homes were destroyed or seriously damaged in the rampage. The cause of the riot was supposedly due to the actions of two Christians. Mr. Raja Amir and a colleague were arrested after being accused by local Islamic individuals of tearing pages from a Quran (the Muslim holy book), writing inflammatory remarks on others, and slamming the book into the dirt. These men were charged under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. In response to the attacks, Christian residents fled the area, fearing for their lives. The Pakistani military was called into the area to restore order.
The violence began in the northern province of Punjab, quickly escalating. Videos on social media and the internet displayed masses of enraged individuals attacking a church, lobbing rocks and lighting fires. Windows were shattered, and in one instance a man situated on a rooftop used tools to deface and upend a Christian cross from its artistic position as a crowd cheered below. The lawless episode was widely condemned by Muslims and Christians across the region and the world.