07/02/2021, 14.11
BANGLADESH
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Sylhet, Muslims and Hindus expropriate Christian lands and cemetery

by Sumon Corraya

So far the appeal to the Anti-Corruption Commission, which has reported the matter in court, has been in vain. In 2012 the land of a Protestant church and the cemetery forcibly expropriated to build a multi-storey building. Bishop of Rajshahi: rights trampled. An anonymous source: "The land is valuable", taken "with illegal documents" and the connivance of land registry employees.

Sylhet (AsiaNews) - A group of Muslims and Hindus forcibly "expropriated" a plot of land belonging to a church and a Christian cemetery to build a multi-storey building. The ecclesiastical authorities in the area presented a formal protest to the competent anti-corruption commission, at the local district section of Sylhet, a metropolitan city in north-eastern Bangladesh.

In response to the complaint, in recent days an official filed a lawsuit against three Muslims and a Hindu. So far, however, no further developments have taken place and the Christian community is still awaiting justice.

The beginning of the story dates back to 2012, when a Protestant church and the adjacent cemetery in Rikabibazar (Sylhet) fell into the hands of three Muslims and a Hindu through an illegal expropriation. In response, the Church authorities asked the anti-corruption commission for help, which proved the Christians right, confirming the validity of the complaint and starting the process for the restitution of land and property.

The defendants are Mujibor Rahman Patwary, the lawyer Sirajul Islam, MaloiKar, and Ashab Uddin. Among them, three are former state employees who managed the agricultural department, while the fourth is their legal representative. Deputy departmental director of the anti-corruption commission Ismail Hossian is representing the Christians in court.

In this period of time, the defendants have already completed part of the construction (pictured) that arose on the land at the centre of the dispute.

Msgr. Gervas Rozario, bishop of Rajshahi and vice-president of the Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh (CBCP), according to whom it shows "how Christians are subject to persecution" in the country and their rights often trampled on.

A member of the Church, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, told AsiaNews: "The land is very valuable, so greedy people have taken it with illegal documents relating to the land, thanks also to the connivance of personnel employed in the cadastral office".

 "We ask for the immediate restitution of the land and that construction on the lots belonging to the Church stop".

Bangladesh is a nation with a very large Muslim majority. Due to matters relating to land ownership, the Christian minority is often the victim of persecution and attacks by radical Muslim groups or individuals. Christians are also attacked and persecuted for their campaigns to defend freedoms and rights, as recently happened to Catholic activist Angela Gomes.

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