Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Bangladesh’s Christian minorities have experienced five attacks since the start of the year, all related to attempts to grab land. The last case involved an Anglican community in the southern district of Barisal.
On Saturday, more than 200 people, including Catholics and Protestants, formed a human chain in Dhaka, the capital, calling on the government to protect Christians and their lands.
Between 9 and 11 April, the Barisal District Bar Association seized land belonging to St Peter’s Church.
Some lawyers went as far as to attack 15 Christians (including 10 women) who were protesting peacefully against the seizure.
"Not only have they grabbed our land, but they also attacked our people,” said Rev David A. Das, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Bangladesh. “Many women were sexually assaulted during the 11 April attack.”
“We shall protest until our land is returned. The Church’s land is holy. Nobody can grab it illegally,” the clergyman said.
Official papers show that the Church acquired the land in 1918, under British rule. However, since 2002, it has been fighting a legal battle to stop attempts to seize it.
The Bar Association claim that Barisal district has owned the land for the past 50 years, and that a court order allows them to build on it.
"We want to live here in peace,” said Nirmal Rozario, general secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, who spoke to AsiaNews.
“However, because we are a minority, unscrupulous men often attack our people for our land and property. The government should take action for us.”
Still, “We are ready to sacrifice our lives for the land of the Church. We shall not leave our land."
Last year, Barisal District saw two Catholics killed also over land issues.