Religious minorities in Bangladesh have called on their government for protection following a murder attempt on a pastor earlier this week. On Monday, unknown assailants attacked a Christian pastor at his home and attempted to cut his throat. The pastor was able to fend off the attack, but religious minorities still feel insecure. The attack on the Christian pastor also follows the murder of two foreign NGO workers in Dhaka for which ISIS is rumored to be behind. Will Bangladesh heed the demands of its religious minorities?
10/7/2015 Bangladesh (BenarNews) – After the murders of two foreigners and the attempted killing of a Christian pastor in Bangladesh, members of religious minority groups called on the government Tuesday to protect their communities from attacks by suspected Islamists.
“We will place our resolution to the government to ensure the safety of all minorities in Bangladesh. The attack on Luke Sarker is an attack on all minorities. We are worried about our safety,” Rana Das Gupta, president of the Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Oikya Parishad, an association of various minority groups, told BenarNews.
He was referring to Monday’s knife attack in Pabna district on the pastor of Faith Bible Church. The association is planning to hold an emergency meeting in the next two days to discuss security in the wake of the attack on Sarker and the recent murders of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella and Japanese agricultural expert Kunio Hoshi.
According to news reports in early September, Das Gupta, who is also a prosecutor for Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal, received death threats from Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a banned militant group that police suspect carried out the killings of four secular bloggers earlier this year.
‘Surely the act of radicals’
Hindus, Buddhists and Christians collectively account for 10 percent of the predominantly Muslim country’s 160 million people.
The daytime attack at Sarker’s home was the first targeting a member of Bangladesh’s Christian community since three Evangelical Christians were murdered in northern Mymensingh district in 2003, officials said.
“The government must investigate whether the IS [Islamic State] was involved in the attack [on Sarker]. In addition, our security must be ensured,” Nimal Rozario, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Christian Association, told BenarNews.
“The pre-planned attack was aimed at killing Luke Sarker. This is surely the act of the radicals. They also killed the Italian and the Japanese nationals,” Rozario added.
IS has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 28 and Oct. 3 killings of Tavella and Hoshi in Dhaka and northern Rangur district, respectively, in which the victims were gunned down by men on motorbikes, according to police.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has repeatedly insisted that IS was not involved in those killings, but he has yet to provide facts to explain how officials ruled out an IS connection.
‘They were trying to kill him’
Sarker, 50, was out of danger and recovering Tuesday at a hospital in Ishwardy, Padna, after having the skin of his throat cut during the attack, physician Shafiqul Islam told reporters.
Local police have arrested Obaidul Islam, 22, in connection with the attack. Islam is an activist with Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party.
Three unknown men entered Sarker’s home after arriving there on a motorbike at around 8:30 a.m. Monday, according to police and witnesses.
They allegedly identified themselves as being interested in hearing a sermon. As the pastor read from the Bible, one of the men, all said to be in their 30s, came after him with a knife, witnesses said.
“Entering the room, I saw they were trying to kill him. I and other family members started screaming for help. Then the attackers left him and rushed out of the room when people around started shouting,” Sarker’s wife, Padma, told BenarNews.
Sarker fended off the attack by biting on the fingers of the man trying to slash his throat.
One of the strangers had previously attended one of Luke Sarker’s sermons in recent days, Padma Sarker said.