While Hindus all over the world celebrated the ongoing festival of “Holi” over the weekend rubbing and throwing colored powder on each other, the ones living in Pakistan spent the occasion cleaning and wiping black soot off the walls of a temple.
On Sunday, the Islamic Republic yet again proved it is one of the most dangerous places for its religious minority groups whenhundreds of vandals attacked a Hindu place of worship and set it on fire.
The reason behind the unfortunate incident was in fact a rumor – yes, a rumor – that a member of the community had desecrated the Koran – the central religious text of Islam.
A crowd of “angry” students from local Islamic seminaries reportedly attacked the temple, holding batons.
"Our Dharamshala (community centre) has been gutted and the temple hasbeen partially damaged. All the statues have been destroyed by the attackers," Kalpana Devi, chairperson of the local Hindu committee, told Reuters.
The community roughly makes up less than 2% of the total population of Pakistan.
However, this isn’t the first time a religious sect or minority has been attacked in Pakistan. Christians (1.6%), Shia Muslims (15-20%) and the Ahmadiyya (less than 3%) are also among the prime targets for terrorist and/or mob attacks in recent years.
Syria and North Korea are not the only countries where Christians are persecuted.
Over similar rumors of desecration of the Koran, attacks targeting Christians in the province of Punjab were carried out in 2009 that resulted in the deaths of eight including four women and a child.
Almost three years later, an entire Christian neighborhood was burned to the ground in the month of March over allegations of blasphemy.
Last year, dozens of Christians were killed in twin bomb blasts that ripped through a church in the northern city of Peshawar.
According to the 2012 United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) annual report, "The government of Pakistan continues to engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief."
In the year 2012, more than 400 Shiites were killed in target killings and bombings, making it possibly the bloodiest year in living memory for the Shiite population of Pakistan.
In the same year, the Human Rights Watch noted that Pakistan was becoming an increasingly dangerous place for minorities and the government was unable to provide any sort of protection from terrorist organizations.
Another sect within Islam, the Ahmadiyya community, has been one of the most communities – or perhaps – the most persecuted religious community in Pakistan, primarily because of the country’s law that prohibits the members of the community any kind of religious activity or expression.
On 28 May 2010, Muslim extremists including three suicide bombers, (allegedly belonging to an offshoot of the notorious Taliban) entered two Ahmadi mosques in the city of Lahore and opened fire. The attack claimed the lives of 86 people and injured over 100.