They came in buses to the small village of Sangla Hill in the Nankana district of Punjab in Pakistan.
Some 2,000 organized Muslims first vandalized three churches, a nuns’ convent, two Catholic schools, the houses of a Protestant pastor and a Catholic priest, a girls’ hostel and some Christian homes, according to Asia News.
Then they burned them to the ground, while about 450 Christian families fled yesterday. They have not returned.
The Justice and Peace Commission accuses the police of “criminal negligence” because they did not intervene.
Lawrence John Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore Archdiocese and chairman of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, said “the attack seems to have been planned and organized as the attackers were brought to the site in buses and instigated to commit violence and arson. It gave our people a lot of fear and anxiety but we hope the government will do something.”
The violence began 10 a.m. Saturday and was apparently motivated by the latest blasphemy case. On Friday, a Christian, Yousaf Masih, allegedly burned some copies of the Quran and disappeared. One of his brothers, Salim Masih was arrested the day before. The Commission of Justice and Peace in Lahore ruled that the blasphemy accusations were false and stemmed from the accusers having a financial dispute with the families they accused.
Saqib Sohail Bhatti, a Christian in Sangla Hill, explained Masih is an illiterate who would not even be able to distinguish the Quran from any other book.
Muslim clerical leaders yesterday called their flocks to gather outside the Jamia Madni Masjid central mosque where they urged them to attack the Christians. In fiery speeches, the leaders provoked the mob to set to fire each and every Christian place of worship.
The angry mob started with Masih’s house and then turned on the house of his brother. Then they headed for the Presbyterian Church, setting ablaze the building, books and the house of the local pastor, Tajamal Perveiz. Then they turned on the Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit and the adjacent convent as well as the home of the Father Semson Dilawar, the parish priest.
The crowd of some 2,000 Muslims also caused severe damage to the Saint Anthony schools, destroying furniture, records, laboratories and the library.
The Church of the Salvation Army was also damaged.
A Christian member of Parliament, Akram Gill, accused police of sitting on their hands during the rampage.
He telephoned for help but got none. Anwar Sohail, who also witnessed the incidents, told Asia News that “police were there when the mob came to attack the Catholic Church but they fled away and let the protesters enter the Church.”