CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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Protest against attacks on clergy in Bangladesh

DHAKA (UCAN): Christian clergy in Bangladesh say they are receiving death threats following a string of violent attacks on Church personnel over past weeks, responsibility for which is being claimed by militant Islamist groups.

Within a period of weeks up to November 26, at least seven Protestant ministers have received death threats in text messages. 

They all came after violent attacks on a Father Parolari Piero, who is recovering from a gunshot wound, and Reverend Luke Sarkar, who is recovering after assailants tried to cut his throat.

Christian leaders say the attacks and death threats are interlinked.

“The attempted murders of a priest and a pastor, and the death threats, are correlated. A vested group, presumably religious fanatics, is targeting Christian leaders and institutes,” Nirmol Rozario, the secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, said.

“Christians are scared and confused, because they are being targeted for no apparent reason. The government must act immediately to find out who the culprits behind these crimes are and punish them,” Rozario added.

Reverend Martin Adhikari, the principal of the College of Christian Theology Bangladesh in Dhaka, said he has been living in fear since he started receiving death threats via text message earlier in November.

“Eat whatever you like the most. Only five days are left. Not more than that,” a November 11 message reads.

“One day has elapsed. Should we arrange your burial or let your family do it? Inform us today,” another message sent the following day from the same number reads.

“I have been forced to limit my movements since receiving the threats. If I need to go out, I take two people with me for safety,” Reverend Adhikari said.

“Religious extremists might be behind the threats and their intention is to frighten the Christian community by killing some of their leaders,” he said.

More than 200 Christians took to the streets of Dhaka on November 21 to protest against the spate of death threats and attacks.

Christians from various denominations marched together forming a human chain in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka to demand swift government action and the arrest of the attackers.

The Bangladesh Christian Association organised the protest in response to attacks targeting Catholic and Protestant clergy in the country.

On November 18, three gunmen shot and seriously wounded 64-year-old Italian Father Piero, from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, in the northern town Dinajpur.

A group, calling itself the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the shooting.

On October 5, Reverend Sarkar, a minister at the Faith Bible Church in northwestern Pabna district, narrowly escaped death after three alleged members of banned militant Islamist group, Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh, attacked him and tried to slit his throat.

Attacks on Christians have usually been rare in the predominantly Muslim country of 160 million people.

 

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