01/13/2016, 00.00
BANGLADESH

Christian clergyman arrested as a "threat" to the Bishwa Ijtema Islamic pilgrimage

Police took into custody Rev Gilbart Biswas in Tongi, where one of the largest Muslim gatherings is held each year, for his “suspicious behaviour,” namely preaching the Gospel and selling booklets. Two million pilgrims from 150 countries attended this year’s event.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Bangladeshi police detained Rev Gilbart Biswas for preaching the Gospel and selling religious booklets during Bishwa Ijtema, the second largest Islamic pilgrimage in the world after the Hajj, which is held every year in Tongi (near Dhaka), on the banks of the Turag River.

The clergyman was taken into custody last Saturday. Deployed to provide security to the event, police justified his arrest on "security grounds" because of his “suspicious behaviour”. One officer said that "no one can proclaim the Gospel on other religious sites."

In reality, the Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees every citizen the right to profess, practice and propagate their faith.

"We are very concerned about the arrest of Rev Gilbart Biswas,” said a fellow clergyman, anonymous for security reasons. “He did not commit any crime and was arrested illegally by the police, which has not yet released him."

Now the “judge wants to read the booklet Rev Gilbart Biswas distributed,” he added. “After reading it, he will give his verdict."

The Bishwa Ijtema (Global congregation or World Meeting in Bangla) is an annual event organised by the Tabligi Jamaat (Society for the spread of the faith), a transnational religious and non-political movement that seeks the spiritual reform of Islam.

The event, which includes moments of prayer and preaching, draws millions of people from all over the world. This year some two million people from 150 nations took part in the event. The government deployed more than 5,000 police agents to ensure security.

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