A man shot and wounded a Christian priest in eastern Pakistan, according to a police complaint released on Monday, just weeks after vigilante mobs in the area attacked churches and burnt down homes, displacing hundreds in the small religious minority community.
After conducting a church service this weekend in the eastern town of Jaranwala, Elizar Sandhu, a local priest, was stopped by a man who told him to recite a Muslim religious text, according to the information report filed to police. The man then shot the priest in the arm when the religious leader recited a Christian prayer in response. The priest is being treated in a nearby hospital.
A large contingent of armed paramilitary troopers has fanned out to restore calm in Jaranwala after violence roiled the area last month, but tensions have remained high and Christians displaced from their homes have said they are scared of more violence.
More than 120 people were arrested over the hours-long rampage by a mob that residents said consisted of people carrying iron rods, knives, and sticks, and which set fire to churches and scores of homes.
Police and residents said the attack started after someone took allegedly desecrated pages of the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, to a mosque prayer leader, which was followed by announcements calling for punishment.
Police have arrested two Christian men accused of blasphemy and are investigating.
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan but no one has ever been executed, although numerous people accused of blasphemy have been lynched by outraged mobs in the past.
Caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has also visited the area, calling last month’s attack an atrocity and promising Pakistan’s minority religious communities that the government would protect them.