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“Lord, forgive our persecutors” say Rohingya Christians brutally attacked in Muslim Rohingya backlash


28 January 2020

One Rohingya Christian is missing and twelve were seriously injured, including several children, in multiple attacks by Rohingya Muslim mobs on the isolated Rohingya Christian community in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, Bangladesh.

The attacks are thought to be a backlash in the wake of UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee’s statement, on 23 January, raising specific concerns over anti-Christian persecution in the camp.

Caption
Rohingya Christian families fled their homes, taking refuge at administrative offices in the camp, when their community was violently attacked by Rohingya Muslim extremists

“I also met with a group of Rohingya Christians who are in a most difficult position. They told me they were persecuted due to their religion by the Myanmar Government while they lived in Rakhine [Myanmar], and now they face hostility and violence from a small number of other camp residents. This worries me,” Yanghee Lee stated after a fact-finding visit to the camp as part of her investigation of human right violations in Myanmar (Burma).

An extremist mob, in gangs of at least 100, swarmed into the vulnerable Christian community on 27 January, four days after the expert’s report was released.

One individual went missing in the onslaught and is presumed dead at the time of writing. A man suffered a head injury as the extremists pelted stones at a church roof. Knife attacks, the use of acid and attempted arson were also reported.

The Muslim mobs ransacked the community’s church, removing the Bibles, and looted and destroyed the Christians' houses, making at least 20 families homeless.

Camp security forces reportedly turned on the Christians, rather than protecting them, beating several and leaving one man unconscious. They also confiscated mobile phones containing evidence of the attacks.

In the immediate aftermath of the assaults, a Rohingya Christian leader posted a prayer for the attackers on Facebook. “O Lord please forgive our persecutors,” he said and recalled the stoning of Stephen: “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’" (Acts 7:59-60).

Barnabas’ contact said that violence against the group has “tripled” in the past week, as he pleaded for help from the international community. He called for a protected, separate enclave to be provided for Rohingya Christians in the camp. Rohingya Hindu refugees in Bangladesh already have such protection. The Christian Rohingyas do not want to come to the West, they just want the same protection in the camp that Hindus have.

This isolated, now doubly-persecuted, group of a few hundred Rohingya Christians live amongst 750,000 mainly-Muslim ethnic Rohingya who fled their homeland to escape genocide at the hands of the Myanmar Army. The tiny community contacted Barnabas for help in September 2019 when the formerly persecuted Rohingya Muslim refugees turned persecutors, violently attacking the Rohingya Christians living alongside them in the camp. Extremist Islamist group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA, formerly called Harakah al-Yaqin), which is active in the camps, have been implicated in a surge of anti-Christian violence in the camp.

From Barnabas Fund contacts