11/25/2014, 00.00
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Two Protestant clergymen on trial in Bangladesh for alleged "forced conversions"

About 200 people attacked the religious leaders as they were baptising Muslims. Some local imams filed charges against the clergymen who, together with scores of Protestants, were arrested by police. The pastors are now free on bail.

Lalmonirhat (AsiaNews) - Two Protestant clergymen are awaiting trial in Bangladesh on charges of inducing Muslims to convert.

The incident occurred in mid-November when some 200 Muslims attacked the Christian religious leaders - anonymous for security reasons.

The two clergymen, who belong to Faith Bible Church of God, were celebrating baptisms in the northern district of Lalmonirhat, 341 kilometres from Dhaka.

A source told AsiaNews that some members of the local Muslim community - perhaps incited by conservative imams - were angered by reports that Muslims were set to undergo baptism, and so stormed the site.

The police intervened and arrested 45 Protestants, including two pastors. A few hours later, the faithful were released, but the Protestant religious leaders remained in prison.

Some imams filed a complaint for "forced conversions" against them. Because of pressure from Islamic leaders, the authorities at first denied the two bail.

After a second request, on 18 November, police released the Protestant clergymen, who now have to stand trial.

Bangladesh does not have anti-conversion laws. Islam is the state religion, practiced by about 89.5 per cent of the population. Catholics are only 0.1 per cent.

The Constitution does not recognise Sharia (Islamic law) and guarantees full religious freedom; however, conversions to a different religion are often opposed.

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