Pakistan: Muslims burn Christian churches in day of rage

Hillary Clinton went on Pakistani TV to denounce a film believed by Muslims to defame Islam, reaffirming American commitment to tolerance of religion. The day was marked with violence throughout Pakistan.

Thousands of Muslims went on a rampage in Mardan, near the Pakistani city of Peshawar, burning down an Anglican church and destroying the homes of two pastors and a school teacher. While the purpose of the attack is as yet unclear, it came during days of rage throughout the Muslim world. At least six people were killed in other clashes in Pakistan on September 21 as mobs raged through the streets of Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi and elsewhere. Movie theatres were burned and police were attacked by rioters. In the case of the Anglican school, newly installed computers were stolen and the building was set alight. No one is reported to have been injured in that attack.

Explaining away their own violence, Muslim spokesmen blame a movie that was made in the United States entitled 'The Innocence of Muslims.' This same explanation has been proffered in the West even while information is coming in that, for example, the attack in Libya that resulted in the death of American ambassador Chris Stevens was pre-planned to commence on September 11 - the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack. In the case of Pakistan, some protesters are demanding that the maker of the film be delivered to them to be cut up into pieces. The man in question, an Egyptian Coptic Christian, remains in hiding in California following questioning by federal authorities.

Friday is traditionally the day that Muslims go to their mosques to pray. Pakistan has declared today a "Day of Love" for Mohammed, the founder of Islam. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf declared that the movie in question is "an attack on the whole 1.5 billion Muslims." His foreign ministry summoned the American chargé d'affaires to lodge a protest against the YouTube video blamed for the violence.  For her part, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a television spot on Pakistani television saying the American government had nothing to do with the film about Mohammad.

The Anglican Bishop of Peshawar Humphrey Peters has appealed for support from the Anglican Communion, while condemning the attack on Anglican facilities. “The damage has been very severe, and we will need to rebuild. We are asking for people around the world to keep us in your prayers.” In addition, the Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, Most Rev Samuel Azariah Samuel remarked, “This news is very damaging to relations between the communities in Pakistan and around the world. The government and faith leaders in Pakistan have a role to play in education people that they have the right to protest, but to damage property and terrify people in this way is completely wrong. The government and faith leaders should provide the lead in preventing attacks.”

According to a release from the Anglican Communion, the Diocese of Peshawar, where the attack took place, provides education and health services to local Christian and Muslim communities, as well as substantial support to victims of floods and a major earthquake in recent years, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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