Concerns rise as new Pakistan church attacked

About 100 people, mostly youths, attacked a Catholic church in the Sambrial district near the Indian border on Friday after accusing a young Christian man of desecrating the Koran, police said.

"They set fire to prayer mats and some religious books but the timely arrival of police prevented the situation from taking an ugly turn," local police official Rafaqat Ali told AFP by telephone.

"The church suffered no major damage," he said. Police arrested a man accused of "snatching and desecrating" a copy of the Koran from a girl while she was going to school, he added.

Pakistan's Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti visited the area today and vowed that the government would "reconstruct" the church.
"No one from minorities can even think of desecration of the holy Koran," he said in a statement released in English.

"Some people want to destabilise the country by doing such things, but the government will not allow anyone to play with the lives and properties of the minorities," he added.
Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law carries the death penalty although no one has ever been sent to the gallows for the crime.

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