Bangladeshi Christian villagers forced to flee after violent attacks by Buddhist extremists
The inhabitants of Suandrapara, a Christian village in the Rangmati area of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, were forced to flee after suffering threats and two violent attacks from Buddhist radicals.
The villagers, who converted from Buddhism 16 years ago, were attacked after they refused to re-convert and demolish their church building.
The Buddhists attacked both members of the church and the building, breaking a cross, tearing down part of a wall, and damaging the roof.
The assistant pastor, Tubel Chakma Poran Adetion, explained, “We were Buddhists and we met Jesus Christ in 2005. In January of this year, we built the church. Every day we gathered and prayed, but the local Buddhist majority didn't like it.”
On 12 July Buddhist radicals led by Joan Chakma – a leading figure in the United People's Democratic Front (UPDF), a local political party – warned the 50 Christian villagers to demolish the church within three days.
Three days later the Buddhists returned, attacked the villagers and church building, and ordered them to re-convert to Buddhism within seven days.
On 22 July the extremists returned once again, launching another violent assault against the Christian village. They also warned the villagers of further consequences if they reported the incident to police or local media.
“The radicals told us to destroy the church, but we will not,” continued Pastor Adetion. “If we have to sacrifice our lives, we will. They threaten us to return to our old religion, but we will not return. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. We will die for Him.”
The Christian community of Bangladesh is estimated at just 1% of the population. Believers have typically enjoyed greater religious freedom in Bangladesh than in many other Muslim-majority countries, but have suffered violence, particularly in rural areas. The Buddhist population of Bangladesh is less than 1% nationally, yet Buddhist tribes represent a majority of the population in the Chittagong Hill region.