A Catholic priest from northern Bangladesh has disappeared with police suspecting an abduction by religious extremists operating in the area. Security in Bangladesh has been stepped up ahead of the first visit by the Pope in more than 30 years. According to the priest’s family, he has been missing since Monday and his mobile phone has been switched off. Attacks on religious minorities in Bangladesh have become more common as extremist groups have found space to operate. Last year, three Christians were targeted and killed by extremists in Bangladesh, including a Christian grocer who was hacked to death in the same area where the priest disappeared.
11/29/2017 Bangladesh (Channel NewsAsia) – A Catholic priest has disappeared in Bangladesh, police said on Wednesday (Nov 29), as the Muslim-majority country stepped up security ahead of a landmark visit by Pope Francis that follows a rise in extremist attacks on religious minorities.
Walter William Rosario, a 40-year-old priest and headmaster of a Catholic school, went missing on Monday in a village in northern Bangladesh where suspected extremists last year hacked a Catholic grocer to death.
Gerves Rosario, bishop of the nearby city of Rajshahi, said he believed the priest had been kidnapped and that Catholics in the region were deeply worried.
“He was organizing for around 300 Catholics to travel to Dhaka to see the Pope and attend his holy mass. But his disappearance has marred their joy. They don’t want to go to Dhaka anymore,” he said.
News of his disappearance comes as Bangladesh tightens security in the capital Dhaka ahead of the arrival Thursday of the first pontiff to visit Bangladesh in more than three decades.
Police in Natore district said they had launched a major search for Rosario after his family reported him missing.
“He has been missing since late Monday. His mobile has been switched off,” local police chief Biplob Bijoy Talukder told AFP.
The family received a phone call from someone using the missing man’s number to demand a ransom, but Talukder said police believed this was a hoax.
They have not ruled out the possibility he was abducted by extremists, who have carried out attacks on religious minorities in the region in the past four years.
Since 2015 at least three Christians, including two converts from Islam, have been hacked to death in attacks blamed on the militant Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).