Dinajpur (AsiaNews) – This morning, three men, one with a gun and another with a knife, attacked Fr Piero Parolari, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).
“They wanted to kill him,” one of the victim’s confreres told AsiaNews. “He is conscious and talking.” After he was taken to the Dinajpur Medical College Hospital, he “was moved to a medical facility in Dhaka as a precaution. Doctors said that his life is not in danger.”
Nothing is known of the attackers, the Catholic source said, but police have arrested ten members of the Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic fundamentalist group recently in the news for trying to murder a Protestant clergyman.
Fr Parolari, 64, is a medical missionary and associate pastor in Suihari. He has been in Bangladesh since 1985, working at the St Vincent Hospital.
As he usually does, this morning he was riding his bicycle on his way to the hospital to treat two youths injured in a car accident when a motorcycle drew up him.
"He was near a bus stop in front of a government building,” the Catholic source said. “Three thugs were on the motorcycle. One shot him in the neck, but only grazed it, whilst another threw a knife (perhaps a Chinese knife) at the carotid artery. The cut did most of the damage. Fr Parolari lost a lot of blood."
The priest fell and hit his head. He has bruises on his eyes and body. The doctors moved him to a hospital in the capital for further observation.
For Fr Parolari’s confrere, what matters "is that police is still saying that the attackers wanted to kill him."
According to the source, "the reason for the attempted murder is not religious hatred against the Christian community, but the country’s disastrous political situation.”
“Every day, the government in Dhaka is arresting members of the opposition BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) and the Jamaat-e-Islami, ahead of elections in December, which now have been blocked."
Fuelling tensions, “the Supreme Court of Bangladesh confirmed the death sentence of two political opponents, convicted of war crimes during the Indo-Pakistani conflict of 1971,” which led to the secession of Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) from Pakistan (then known as West Pakistan).
"When politically-charged events like this ruling occur, the police tells foreigners to stay at home. Although Fr Parolari was attacked before the High Court’s decision, the verdict was already known."
The religious also noted that following the killing of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella, shot in the capital whilst jogging, "the government said that it would provide greater protection to foreigners. But all these arrests demonstrate that some parts of the country are still unsafe."
Several Christian, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders condemned the attack against the Catholic doctor, who is well respected for his work in favour of the needy.
"The attempted murder of a Catholic priest is unacceptable,” Shamsuddin Ahamed, a Muslim, told AsiaNews. “This type of attack harms Bangladesh’s image among developed countries. The government must ensure justice. "
"We strongly condemn what happened,” said Promod Mankin, a Catholic activist and State Minister for Social Affairs Minister. “We want to inflict exemplary punishment on the guilty."
However, for Fr Parolari’s confrere, the parties are just trying to blame each other. BNP leaders want the government to “find the real culprits rather than hound the opposition.”
(Sumon Corraya contributed to this article)