10/24/2015, 00.00
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Bangladesh’s Christians threatened with more land grabs

by Sumon Corraya
Last week a mob of about 100 Muslims seized a Christian-owned home in Dhaka. Now they want to do the same to neighbouring properties. Local Christian community leaders want a solution, but the Muslim land grabbers refuse. “We have lived here for 300 years. We want to live in peace where we were born,” said displaced Christian.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – After a Muslim mob seized a Christian home last week in the capital of Bangladesh, local Christians fear they might suffer a similar fate.

The same people who forced Tapon Cruze to abandon his three-room house on pain of death are now threatening his neighbours. Their action is not an isolated incident. For years, Bangladeshi Christians have been the victims of land grabs.

"I phoned the occupiers and tried to get them to talk the issue over,” Fr Albert Rozario, parish priest at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, told AsiaNews. “However, they are unwilling to find an agreed solution. They seized with force land that belongs to Catholics and now want to do the same to neighbouring properties."

Last week, about 100 Muslims broke into Tapon Cruze’s home, not far from the Church of the Holy Rosary, and forced him and his family to flee.

"After losing our home, we are living with relatives,” he told AsiaNews. “We got a lawyer to sue those who grabbed our land. Please, pray for us.”

Local Catholics have been trying to obtain justice, but the Muslim land grabbers are very powerful.

“The criminals are acting unlawfully and unfairly. This is very painful,” said Fr Rozario, who is also secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace.

Before getting Cruze to sell his home under duress, his neighbours are getting threats that their land might be taken away as well.

For Cruze, life is now full of fear. “The land grabbers can come at any time and take away our property. We have lived here for 300 years. We want to live in peace where we were born.”

"All charges against us are false,” Azijulla, the Muslim who led the group that attacked the house. “I have all the legal documents for the land I took."

Bangladesh has a population of 152 million people, mostly Muslim (89.8 per cent). Hindus and Christians represent respectively 9.1 and 0.2 per cent of the population. In recent years, they have been attacked, their lands seized.

For experts, the main motivation is primarily economic, not religious.

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