04/17/2015, 00.00
BANGLADESH

Bishop of Sylhet: Protection for tribal Catholics, victims of expropriation and threats

Sumon Corraya
At Easter a village inhabited by Khasia suffered a heavy attack from a group of Muslims. The real aim of the aggression was to force the community to abandon the local tea plantation, of which it has legal usufruct. The pastor: "We live in fear."

Sylhet (AsiaNews) - "We want justice and security for our priests and our faithful. We hope that the government will find a peaceful solution and that our people can live free from tensions. " This is the appeal that Msgr. Bejoy N. D'Cruze OMI, Bishop of Syleht, launches through AsiaNews after the recent attacks against the tribal Khasia living in his diocese. "They are a very peaceful community - the prelate said - but often fall victims of the Bengali majority ".

April 6 last, Syed Ara Begum, a Muslim owner of a tea plantation, along with at least 35 people attacked the Khasia village that falls under the jurisdiction of the parish of Sreemongal (Moulovobazar district). The population - all Catholic - was celebrating Mass for Easter Monday. Hearing the cries, the pastor Fr. James Kiron Rozario CSC ran to the site to save them. The crowd of Muslims, however, attacked him with a knife, seriously wounding him and threatening to kill him.

After assaulting the faithful, the group stole items worth 33,900 taka (4,134 EUR); destroyed Bibles, crosses, holy pictures, musical instruments and homes; killed goats and chickens.

The pastor filed a complaint against the Muslims who attacked them: "They attacked us to push us to leave the plantation. They want to occupy the land, but what they did is illegal. " Fr. Rozario explains that the population years ago obtained government permission to use that land. "Now - he says - my Catholics and I live in fear, they might attack us at any moment."

Nirmal Rozario, leader of the Bangladesh Christian Association, said: "We express our strong condemnation of the attack on the priest and the community. We demand that the perpetrators are caught and brought to justice. "

The tribal Khasia migrated to the Sylhet region from India many years ago. They currently live in 108 villages, belonging to four Catholic parishes of the diocese.

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