Cox's Bazar: Rohingya Christians seek police protection
by Sumon Corraya

Law enforcement officials have taken an interest in the problems of the religious minority. In a meeting there was an exchange in which the faithful said they want to live in peace with Muslims, even though hate speech often comes from the mosque.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - In recent days officers from the 8th Armed Police Battalion-a specialized unit of the national police-met with some Rohingya Christians in Cox's Bazar refugee camp for an exchange of views.

The meeting was attended by 29 worshippers. "The police battalion asked us how we spend our days in the camp and if we have any problems," Shorif David, pastor of Gate Church, told AsiaNews. "When they advised us not to get involved in criminal activities, I replied, 'We have been living in the camp for five years, have there been charges against Rohingya Christians at your police station? You should admire us instead of saying things like that.'"

Since the Rohingya fled Myanmar in 2017 due to persecution by the Tatmadaw (the Burmese army), no Christians have died. "But if someone died, where could we bury them?" added David. "Muslims do not allow us to bury bodies in their cemetery."  The pastor asked the police for protection and a facility for the Christian Rohingya in the camp: "We want to live in this camp with a brotherly relationship and in peace with the Muslim Rohingya, even though they often deliver hateful sermons against Christians and other religions from the mosque."

David is the spiritual leader of about 120 believers originally from Buthidaung town in Rakhine State. The Rohingya Christians in Cox's Bazar, the world's largest refugee camp, number more than 3,000, but only a third have declared their faith because many fear threats and retaliation.

David Nazir, a Christian believer who attended the meeting with police on May 9, said he was happy with the experience, "No agency had ever contacted us directly, I am happy they came to listen to us."

Naimul Hoque, an officer with the 8th Armed Police Battalion, assured that the IDF would ensure the safety of the Christians, "If you have any problems, let us know," he said during the meeting.

The Christians then explained to the police that they converted to Christianity in Myanmar in 2006: "Before that we were 'fakirs,' ascetics who play drums and sing, and the Orthodox Muslims did not allow us to work or sit with them at our village," David Nazir explained. 

There are more than one million Burmese refugees in Bangladesh, divided between Cox's Bazar camp and Bhasan Char Island.