The Catholic Church in Bangladesh recently celebrated 500 years of activity in the country. Looking at the history of the Church in Bangladesh as well as its current status, is interesting. On the one hand, Christians are appreciated by the society at large for their contributions to the country’s development, especially in the areas of education and medicine. On the other hand, attacks on Christians and their places of worship across the country continue. In the years to come, will these attacks ultimately lead to Christians being driven out of Bangladesh?
01/29/2018 Bangladesh (World Watch Monitor) – Portuguese Christians, initially merchants and later also missionaries, arrived in Bangladesh 500 years ago and started communities. Today Bangladeshi Christians form a tiny group in the Muslim-majority nation and face various challenges because of their faith.
According to Fr. David Bipul Das, a Catholic priest in the diocese of Barisal, 240km south of the capital Dhaka, Bangladeshi Christians, a 0.5% minority group among a population of almost 165 million, face discrimination from both their Muslim neighbors and the government.
He told the Catholic news agency Fides of prejudices and “land grabbing” but also how “Muslim extremists continue to harass Christians, with pretentious reasons, to foment a quarrel and to incite religious hatred in society”.
He says, however, that society in general appreciates the Christian community, “as a community that loves peace, and is bearer of a high sense of moral and spiritual values, very visible in the witness of life” because of their contributions in areas like education, healthcare, and social development.
The 500–year anniversary is celebrated by the Catholic Church in Bangladesh with a year-long program that started on 17 December and is themed ‘Heritage, Celebration and Renewal’. Archbishop Moses M. Costa of the archdiocese of Chittagong, told UCAN: “We look back … at what we have received from the missionaries. What are the reasons we need to celebrate? At the same time, it gives new inspiration to be a new church”.
Meanwhile, last Saturday (20 January), three Christian men were beaten up by thugs from a local political group. The attack happened at the St. Mothumath Assemblies of God Church in Gopalganj district, southwest of Dhaka.
The altercation was part of a long-running dispute over a fish pond that belongs to the church, reported UCAN.
A local source told World Watch Monitor that the fishes “are a source of income and the local political group has been trying for years to grab it but failed”.
After the attack the church filed a police report at the local police station for the injuries of three men: the pastor, Anakul Biswas, 55, Mitul Bala, 45, and Nathoniel Ray, 57, as well as damage that was done to the building when the attackers entered. Christians in the village also organized a rally to protest against such violence, the source said.
According to local priest Fr. Mintu Boiragi, “attacks against Christians over disputed property is nothing new”.
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