MUMBAI – A May 25 attack on Christians in north-central Pakistan by an enraged Muslim mob, accusing a Christian man of having defaced the Quran, represents a “dark day” for the country’s Christian community, Pakistan’s top Catholic official has said.

“I strongly condemn this incident. It’s a dark day for the Church in Pakistan,” Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad, president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference, told Crux in the aftermath of the attack.

“Without knowing or investigating [the accusation regarding the Quran], the mob attacked a 74-year-old Christian man,” Shukardin said. “Christians are very disappointed and afraid.”

Although many observers have long complained that such violent episodes are encouraged by Pakistan’s controversial anti-blasphemy laws, Shukardin said the Church is not calling for those laws to be repealed but rather for good judgment in how they’re applied.

“Many Muslims have condemned this incident, there are many good Muslims, but the majority attack on mere allegations,” he said. “Many of the complaints are based on made-up evidence, and the real causes are personal vendetta or gains.”

“Jealousy over the economic development of Christians is one of the reasons for this attack, Shukardin said. “They use the law against Christians for professional rivalry. Christians are afraid to start and open businesses, as the Muslims will not accept it.”

Shukardin also credited local police for intervening and preventing fatalities.

According to local observers, hundreds of Muslims took part in the mob violence in Sargodha, Pakistan, located in the Punjab province, on Saturday. The incident began with an accusation that a Christian had defaced the Muslim holy book, which led to an assault in which his shoemaking factory was burned to the ground.

Sargodha police chief Sariq Khan was quoted by local media as saying that officers had rescued at least five people from the violence, and that stones and bricks had been hurled at police during the melee.

A police spokesman said the violence is now under control and that officers are investigating the allegation regarding the Quran, which would be a crime under Pakistan’s controversial anti-blasphemy laws.

According to local sources, at least one Christan man named Lazar was serious injured during the violence and is currently hospitalized. Overall, roughly 25 arrests were made.

“This ugly incident of mob violence has made us Christian very terrified, for we feel that no Christian is safe in Pakistan,” said Dominican Father James Channan, who directs a Church-run peace center in Lahore, Pakistan.

“Any fanatic and member of the religiously fundamentalist organizations or terrorist groups can simply accuse any Christian of blasphemy against the Prophet of Islam or desecrating of the pages or burning of the Holy Quran, and that will lead to mob violence and burning of the houses, churches, beating Christians and even lynching them,” Channan said.

Channan expressed skepticism that the culprits would face legal consequences for their actions.

“The grave injustice which is done to Christians after such horrific attacks is that no one is punished,” he said. “All accused are set free after some months or years. If justice had been done in the previous 8 to 10 such incidents of mob violence, then such incidents may have not happened.”

“It is a challenge for our government to review the controversial blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which are very often used to settle personal scores,” Channan said. “In the case of Christians, it is lamentable that one male or female Christian is accused of blasphemy and then mobsters destroy properties and churches and even kill Christians.”

Channan issued an appeal to international organizations to pressure the Pakistani government to do more to protect Christians, who represent just under two percent of the country’s population of 236 million.

“Christians of Pakistan are peace loving people and are very loyal to their country and are contributing immensely for stability of Pakistan, especially in the field of healthcare, education and social development,” he said.

Shukardin told Crux that two other small-scale incidents regarding alleged blasphemy took place in other regions of Pakistan on the same day, one of which involved throwing stones at a church, calling the reports “alarming.”