Bangladesh Christians Face Persecution Threats

As Muslim fundamentalism rises in Bangladesh, church leaders report that Christians in the country are facing a growing threat.

Last week, two people were killed and 100 wounded in a series of bomb explosions across the country. According to reports, the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen group left leaflets with messages on the bomb sites, calling for Islamic rule in Bangladesh. The message also warned the United States and Britain against occupation of Muslim nations.

The attacks were "a clear indication of a growing Islamic fundamentalism," said Augustine Dipak Karmakar, general secretary of the Church of Bangladesh, according to Ecumenical News International

Karmaker noted that the "secular space in the country is shrinking" and incidents such as the recent murders of two Christian workers late last month prove the lack of religious freedom.

The two church workers for Christian Life Bangladesh (CLB), Tapan Kumar Roy and Liplal Marandi, were hacked to death by fundamentalists for showing a film about Jesus even though they received permission from villagers, said CLB director Sunil Adhikari.

"We are free under law to preach our faith. But, in reality we do not have much freedom," Karmaker said.

The general secretary accused the government of sheltering the culprits, saying that no arrests have been made and are not likely to be made even though Christians have marched in protest in Dhaka.

He said that the Islamic fundamentalist lobby has spread into the government machinery as the administration is presently headed by a coalition in which the Bangladesh Nationalist Party shares power with the Jamat-e-Islami party.

Since Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan in 1971, the non-Muslim population in the country has shrunk. Only 400,000 of the population of 144 million are Christians, which is less than one percent; 83 percent are Muslim.