Catholics attacked in Bangladesh
According to local Catholic leaders, persistent tensions and outright attacks are part of life for Christians in Bangladesh.
International Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been following the situation of the Church in Bangladesh years.
"In the Dinajpur Diocese in the north-west of the country Catholic Christians are being repeatedly attacked by Muslim groups," Véronique Vogel, head of ACN’s India section, confirmed.
According to the Bishop of Dinajpur, Sebastian Tudu, a missionary center in the village of Bulakipur is being guarded by 30 policemen.
"The worst of it is that in three villages which have been attacked the men were no longer at home,” the bishop reported.
“Many women and children are suffering and living in fear and terror."
Véronique Vogel further described the situation saying, "For months militant forces in Bangladesh have recruited a lot of new followers. This is a very worrying development.”
“A few months ago Buddhists were attacked, and now it's the turn of the Christians.”
Concerning the background to the unrest, Ms. Vogel also commented that “not only religious motives are involved here, but also political ones."
"There is a great shortage of land in Bangladesh, for example. Some groups therefore sometimes put simple people under great pressure with the aim of taking over their land.”
“If on top of this they belong to a different religious community a religious and political conflict will soon develop,” Ms. Vogel said.
“Bangladesh is a powder keg, a very poor country with serious social problems."
At the beginning of June, the Catholic seminary of Dinajpur was raided by Muslims who forced their way into the building, destroyed it and attacked the 25 seminarians present.
The diocese reported the matter to the police and the candidates for the priesthood were housed temporarily at another location.
The background for the attack was possibly a dispute between Muslim and Christian families in a neighboring village, leading a group of Muslims to decide to seek out and attack the seminary.
Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country in which Islam is the state religion and some 90 per cent of the 142 million inhabitants are Muslims, predominantly Sunni.
Close to 9 per cent of Bangladeshis are Hindus, while only 0.3 per cent are Buddhists and Christians. Of that number, some 318,000 are Catholic.