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The persecuted turn persecutor as Rohingya Christians are violently attacked within refugee camps in Bangladesh


24 September 2019

Barnabas Fund has received news that a tiny and unknown group of Rohingya Christians amongst the 750,000 mainly-Muslim Rohingya people, who fled genocide at the hands of the Myanmar Army as refugees, are now doubly persecuted as they face renewed violence from Muslims within refugee camps in Bangladesh.

A church leader has contacted Barnabas to tell of an upsurge in violence this month and to plead for prayers for an isolated group of an estimated several hundreds of Rohingya Christian converts from Islam. Already belonging to what some have called the “most persecuted people on earth”, the small community of Rohingya believers are now being subjected to anti-Christian violence from extremist Muslim Rohingya around them in the camps in Cox’s Bazar district.

Caption
Christian Rohingya gather in a simple tent in a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. After fleeing persecution in Myanmar (Burma) two years ago the group now face violence from the Muslim Rohingya community around them

In May 2019, a group of 17 families (69 people) living next to each other in simple shacks, some with only mud walls and tarpaulin roofs, were violently attacked on at least three consecutive nights by a Muslim mob of several hundred men armed with knives, swords, iron rods, stones and catapults.

A Christian boy was stabbed in the back and needed hospital treatment. A film shared with Barnabas showed large stones flying over the heads of Christians, including young children, fleeing in a small open truck. The mob also looted possessions including the equipment of a Christian barber, before destroying his small shop and forcing him to go to the mosque to reconvert to Islam.

The May attacks culminated with the threat that the Christians would be killed if they did not leave the camp. The Christians attempted to flee the next day only to be forced back to the camp by police and security guards. No camp security personnel attempted to protect the Christians and there has been no investigation into the attacks.

At another camp, a bamboo-and-tarpaulin church building and a Christian school were demolished on 27 March, and Muslim Rohingya immediately performed their ritual prayer on the site to turn it into a mosque.

The rise in violent persecution against Rohingya Christians this year follows on from calls by Rohingya Muslims in December 2018 for the Bangladeshi government to expel Christians from the camps. One asked for Muslim leaders around the world to “chase them out of this place”.

Caption
Rohingya Christian refugees from Myanmar praying together. The isolated community of believers in the camps is cut off from the wider Christian community in Bangladesh

Rohingya Christians were reported to be struggling in May to buy food and other necessities due to camp shopkeepers boycotting them under pressure from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA, formerly called Harakah al-Yaqin), an extremist group active in the camps. Christians are also often completely left out when international aid, such as rice and mosquito nets, is distributed by Muslim Rohingya in the camps.

Barnabas Fund is working discreetly to get essential supplies including food, clothes and medication to Rohingya Christians, as well as materials to repair homes that have been damaged or destroyed, either by violence or by the frequent heavy rains Bangladesh.

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From Barnabas Fund contacts