03/03/2014, 00.00
BANGLADESH

Home of Catholic family torched in Bangladesh

by Sumon Corraya
The perpetrators are unknown, but the local community point to Islamic extremists. However, the attack could be the result of a general climate of insecurity that now exists in the country. Family safe: mother, two children and grandmother.

Dhaka (AsiaNews ) - An arson attack has destroyed the home of a Catholic family in the village of Goualliapara, belonging to the parish of Dharenda ( Diocese of Dhaka) . The incident occurred on the night of March 1 last. The four people present - including two children - were able to escape and get to safety. The police have opened an investigation, but the culprits have not yet been identified. According to residents of the area, they could be Islamic fundamentalists. However, the motive of land issues, the source of conflict in many parts of Bangladesh, has not been excluded.

The house was home to Shipra Palma, her two children and mother-in-law. Her husband, Ben Gomes, emigrated abroad in search of work. Her father died six months ago. "Three days before the fire - the woman tells AsiaNews - we saw some people unknown to us behind our house. They asked around if we were Christians. We feel that this attack was premeditated by them. We have lost in everything, including our Bible and the crucifix. All we have left are the cloths on our backs".

Nirmol Rozario, general secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association , belongs to the same parish of the victims and immediately went to the site as soon as he heard the news. He told AsiaNews : "The two rooms of the house were destroyed in less than eight minutes. The attackers may have used gunpowder to light the fire. We demand an exemplary punishment for those involved in this incident. We just want to live in peace".

Fr. Kamal Corraya , parish priest of St Joseph's Church in Dharenda , visited the site along with a police officer. "We are very shocked about what happened.  This is an attack against the minority, and could be the hands of Islamic extremists. They are very powerful in the area".

For several months now cases of theft, violence and vandalism of various kinds are a daily occurrence in Bangladesh, which threaten public safety and public order. In this context the arson attack in Goualliapara could be the result of such a climate, rather than a real attack on a religious basis. Further proof of this is another conflict, which broke out in the village of Shindurhata (Dinajpur) yesterday. Here the Christian community is at the center of clashes with the Bengali Muslim community, over land issues, a long-standing problem in the country.  Fr. Ujjol Rozario, parish priest of the area, is trying to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner, with the help of the police and local authorities.

 

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