By Jawad Mazhar, Worthy News Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
BAHMANI, PAKISTAN (Worthy News) -- Christian families in a volatile area of Pakistan's Punjab province were in hiding Saturday, July 4, after angry Muslim mobs burned and attacked hundreds of Christian homes and churches, injuring over a dozen people, including women and children, witnesses said.
Rights investigators were on their way to the village of Bahmani in Punjab's Kasur District, where most of this week's violence took place, officials told Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife.
The violence, which began July 1, “left several Christian critically injured including children and women at Bahmani village,” explained Joseph Francis, the national director of Christian rights and advocacy group Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement’ (CLAAS).
Francis said that he and his team hired two mini-vans “to ferry injured Christians from Bahmani village to a CLAAS rehabilitation center. “So far nine women and four children have been shifted for medical treatment,” he told Worthy News.
Francis alleged that the women and children “sustained critical burns because they were attacked with acid.” Some were “drenched in acid” he said, without providing more details.
“LOOTED AND VANDALIZED”
He said some 100 churches and homes were torched while 200 other Christian homes were “looted and vandalized”.
The violence reportedly began after a Muslim cleric allegedly accused Christians of blasphemous teachings against Islam and Prophet Muhammad, making announcements in a local mosque's loudspeaker.
Police forces soon arrived but were unable to rescue injured Christians or control the enraged mob comprising of thousands of fundamentalist Muslims, witnesses said.
A tense calm was reported Saturday, July 4. Francis said rights groups arrived at the scene want to pressure authorities to prosecute suspects. Police have so far been reluctant to take action, rights groups said.
There was no immediate comment from police officials. The latest violence comes amid growing concerns about reports of Islamic extremism and attacks against Christians in Pakistan.