Church in Bangladesh Ransacked by Armed Robbers

ICC Note: A Catholic church in Tongi, located just north of Dhaka, was ransacked by armed robbers last week. During the robbery, the church’s priest was beaten, threatened, and tied up. Attacks on Christians and their places of worship are common in Bangladesh where criminals see Christians as soft targets because of their minority status.  

02/13/2018 Bangladesh (Asia News) – Last week, a Catholic church in Dhaka was ransacked and its parish priest beaten and threatened with death if he refused to hand over money and other valuables to his attackers.

The Canterbury St Augustine Catholic Church is located in Tongi, an industrial north of Dhaka. At least five robbers were involved, three of them masked.

Around 4 a.m. last Thursday, the thieves broke into the church, which has no security guard or CCTV cameras. Fr Chanchal Hubert Pereira, the parish priest, was sleeping in the building at the time along with the gardener and the cook.

The priest said he heard noises from outside. The criminals then opened a window and pointed a gun at him. “They said they would kill me if I did not open the door. I was forced to let them in.”

Once inside, they waved their weapons to intimidate the clergyman, and slapped him in the face. “To save my life I had to give them money, about 35,000 takas (US$ 420), my mobile phone, and laptop computer”.

The thieves went into the church part of the building and ransacked it, messing up the vestments, liturgical books, and the altar. They broke three offering boxes and took the money.

“When I entered the Father’s room, I found him in tears and tied up,” said Bejoy Costa, the cook, speaking to Asia News. During the robbery, the lights were out, and so he could not see anything.

Bablu Peris, a member of the parish council, is “worried about the security of the church and the parish priest. We will arrange for video surveillance cameras and a night guard as soon as possible.”

Several local residents, Muslims and Christians, condemned the incident. Helel Uddin, head of the local police, visited the church and said that the authorities “will investigate the incident and hopefully arrest the robbers very soon.”

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