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ICC Note:

For several months, attacks on Christians and foreigners in Bangladesh has led to increased feelings of insecurity. Groups claiming to be affiliated with ISIS have perpetrated several attacks on local Christian leaders as well as foreigners in the small South Asian country. Now, Christian leaders across the country are receiving death threats via text message from these extremist groups. Does this mean that Christians in Bangladesh will soon face more intense persecution in 2016?

12/29/2015 Bangladesh (MNN) – The U.S. Department of State warns that travel to Bangladesh is especially dangerous right now.

The alert notes, “There is reliable information to suggest that terrorist attacks could occur against foreigners in Bangladesh, including against large gatherings of foreigners.”

Additionally, groups like Barnabus Fund, Open Doors USA, and the Voice of the Martyrs USA have observed a dramatic surge in the persecution of Christians and Hindus, instigated by Islamic extremists. Noel Becchetti with Asian Access says, “Leaders in both of these areas are getting texts saying, ‘Make sure you eat your favorite foods over the next few days because we’re going to kill you in five days,’ or ‘Plan your funeral because you’re going to be dead in three days.’”

It’s disconcerting, Becchetti explains, because “Bangladesh, historically, has always been known for its tolerance. This is really a new phenomenon. Some people think it’s just folks have seen what ISIS is doing, and to some degree, you don’t have to sign up. Anybody can just say, ‘Well, we can do that, too.’”

But are these extremists actually members of ISIS? Not necessarily, says Becchetti. “It’s almost like there are ISIS wanna-be’s out there now. In other words, you’ve got this ISIS phenomenon in Syria and Iraq. Everybody can see what they’re doing, including other disaffected folks in other parts of the world.”

Part of the push-back could also be connected to the fast growth of the Church. Growth means Gospel. Gospel means change. There are just some people who don’t like the direction of that change. In terms of protecting Christians, “The government is aware. The government is not happy about it [the threat].”

Barnabus Fund further explains who is behind the violence: “Those sending the threats claim they are part of Islamist groups Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Islamic State. Their agenda is clear: ‘This country will be ruled only by the [Islamic] Sharia law,’ read the letter sent to [one pastor]. Although Bangladesh is a secular country and its legal system makes it one of the most tolerant Muslim-majority countries in the world, there are Islamist groups lobbying for the Islamisation of the country. The situation has become increasingly volatile in recent months, and Bangladeshi Christians, who make up just 1% of a population that is 90% Muslim, are vulnerable targets.”

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