09/07/2009, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Dhaka: armed Muslim gangs against Christians, victims of robberies and violence

by William Gomes
In Solepur parish violence against the Christian community is up. Muslim gangs persecute Christians in order to force to leave so that they can take their land. Despite reports and complaints, police does nothing.
Dhaka (Asia News) – In Solepur (Dhaka diocese) the local Catholic community has experienced break-ins, forced land sales and motorcycle thefts. For several weeks its members have been targeted by armed Muslim gangs who carry out all sorts of crimes whilst the police does nothing to stop the violence, and this despite the many reports and complaints filed.

The historic Church of Saint Joseph, built in 1850, is one of the oldest in Bangladesh. It is also the heart of Solepur parish, in Dhaka. In 1997 a mob of Muslim fanatics targeted the building, threatening to tear it down and expel Christians from the area. Now members of the congregation have become the target of Muslim gangs who have carried out violent attacks.

Pavel John Gomes, a young Catholic activist in Solepur, said that he was “afraid” to talk about the many cases of “persecution against Christians” because of possible retaliation. He did however say that “forced land sales to Muslims” had taken place, that some residents had been “forced to leave their village” and that at least in one case there was an attempt to “abduct a young Christian woman.”

On 30 August a Muslim stole a moped from a young Christian man. Raju Augustine and Rozario filed a report with the police, but no one from the local station tried to look for the stolen vehicle or the thief.

On 15 August an armed gang of Muslims attacked the home of Prokash Rizario, taking money and other goods that belonged to the family.

“We were few and they surrounded us,” he said. The real goal of the bandits was to “throw us off our land.”

Philimona Gomes remembers that on 30 April, at night, a gang of some ten Muslims attacked her, tied her up, beat her, humiliated her and stole her money, making death threats. “I prayed to Our Lady to save me,” she said.

Her son, Richard, confirmed that the thieves took valuables. In his view there is “a campaign of persecution that is targeting Christians in order to force them out of the area.”

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