Hundreds of Christians attended Sunday services at churches in Pakistan’s eastern city of Jaranwala which were vandalized and torched by angry mobs following the alleged desecration of the holy Quran last week.
The services, the first after the incidents, were attended by men, women and children guarded by heavy security.
Violent mobs attacked churches and the homes of Christian residents after a Christian man was accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book in the small city in Punjab province.
The attacks occurred after some Muslims living in the area claimed they had seen a local Christian and his friend tearing out pages from a Quran, throwing them on the ground, and writing insulting remarks on other pages.
A group demolished the man’s house and damaged churches. The homes of other Christians living in the area were also targeted.
Multiple churches were also set on fire in the central-eastern region.
The interim Chief Minister of Punjab, Mohsin Naqvi, along with his Cabinet members visited several churches Sunday and met with members of the Christian community, assuring them of the government’s full support.
Naqvi also visited at least two churches that have been renovated and announced compensation of 2 million rupees ($6,751) for each of the affected families.
In a sign of solidarity, the provincial Cabinet held its meeting at a church.
Police have booked over 600 people on the charge of ransacking multiple churches and attacking properties of Christian minorities.
Over 130 suspects have already been detained.
The services at a handful of churches in Jaranwala were led by the bishop of the diocese, said Christian community leader Akmal Bhatti. He attended one of the services, which drew hundreds of Christians whose homes were partly or completely destroyed when mobs burnt and looted them on Wednesday.
The pastors later distributed food rations to those affected, Bhatti said.