Published: 14:00 GMT Daylight Time - Tuesday 11 June 2013
Christian property and church leaders attacked in Bangladesh
Country/Region: South and East Asia, Bangladesh
A predominantly Christian village and a nearby seminary have come under attack in a wave of violence against the vulnerable Christian community in Bangladesh.
|Christians at the site of their church building, which was destroyed by fire in April|
A mob of around 60 extremists raided the village of Tivipara and Bagja on 6 June; they plundered the residents’ livestock and other possessions and threatened to return to burn down homes.
The attackers then moved on to nearby Bolakipur and targeted a Christian seminary. Battering down the doors, they forced their way into the building and severely beat the rector and a number of students.
The previous day, two church leaders from Tumilia were beaten and robbed.
Christians and other minorities in Bangladesh are extremely vulnerable in the wake of a violent uprising by Islamist protestors who have been demanding that the country become an Islamic state with the death penalty for those who insult Islam or Muhammad.
Minority communities have been attacked and their places of worship burnt down or vandalised. Jama’at-e-Islami (JI), the largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh, has threatened to “kill all the Malauns [infidels]”. Muslims view Christians and other non-Muslims as "infidels".
One of the Islamist groups, Hefazat e-Islam, has accused Christians of targeting poor people and offering them money to coerce them into converting, a claim strongly denied by church leaders.
The protests, which erupted in February, were sparked by war crimes trials relating to the 1971 War of Independence. The sentencing of a number of Islamist leaders resulted in intensifying riots.
A spokesman for Hefazat e-Islam pledged last month to halt the mass protests, which have claimed over 100 lives as rioters clashed with the police. But the situation remains tense and minorities continue to be targeted.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has continued to affirm the country’s secular character and upheld the right to freedom of religion.