22 January 2018
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  • » 06/28/2016, 16.08

    BANGLADESH

    Catholics live in in fear in Bonpara after Sunil Gomes’s murder

    Sumon Corraya

    The victim had his throat cut after Sunday Mass. Police are still groping in the dark whilst the murderers are still at large. Younger parish members patrol at night to ensure Catholics’ self-defence and security.

    Natore (Asia) – Bonpara is a village in Natore District, in the Diocese of Rajshahi. Since the death of Sunil Gomes, a 71-year-old man Catholic grocer who was murdered two weeks ago by unknown attackers, local Catholics live in fear.

    As a measure of self-defence, younger members of the community have organised night watches to ensure the security of the parish and its residents.

    Despite a claim of responsibility by the extremists of the Islamic State group, police are still in the dark and for now have only arrested two people who rented a place from the grocer.

    "What did my beloved brother do wrong? Why did he become a victim?” said the victim’s brother, Fr Proshanta Gomes, a priest in the diocese of Dinajpur.  “We live in a country where there is no justice. I want the killers arrested and justice done,” he told AsiaNewsI

    In the past few months, Bangladesh has seen a wave of deadly Islamist attacks against students, bloggers, professors, and members of the LGBT community targeted for their liberal ideas.

    In response to the situation, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has launched a campaign against terrorism that saw the arrest of 14,000 suspected terrorists, but few are actually linked to Islamic extremism.

    Bonpara is home to 75 Christians who belong to a larger parish of some 4,000 people. Sunil Gomes was attacked on 5 June after Sunday Mass and left to die in a pool of blood.

    So far, there have been no developments in the investigation into his murder, local Catholics said.

    “After my father’s killing, police came to the house to ask questions for only three days,” said the victim’s daughter, Shopna Gomes.

    Two people have been arrested in connection with the crime, she noted, but not the perpetrators, who are still at large.

    As a security measure, local Catholics have decided to organise night patrols to watch over their houses, which are possible targets for criminals.

    Younger members of the community go around at night, armed with sticks. Leonard Gomes is one of them.

    "It is up to us to ensure our security,” he said. “This is why we do not sleep at night and are always ready to defend our community."

    "We live in fear because we do not feel safe,” said Benedict Gomes, vice president of Bonpara’s Catholic community. “And we feel frustrated because the police are unable to find out who killed Sunil Gomez."

    The Catholic grocer was much loved in the parish, for whom he had worked as a gardener for years. As a sign of mourning, his fellow parishioners and friends have draped their windows with black flags.

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