At least 22 Rohingya Christian families were attacked, a Christian pastor and his 14-year-old daughter were abducted, and a Christian church and school were vandalized in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area, which is home to thousands of refugees who fled ethnic and religious persecution in neighboring Myanmar, according to Human Rights Watch.
A large group of men beat up residents, vandalized homes and looted personal property soon after abducting Taher, a Rohingya Christian pastor, and his daughter, in the Kutupalong Camp 2, the group said in a statement urging authorities in Bangladesh to provide protection.
The attack took place on Jan. 27 by machete-wielding Muslim Rohingya men on a Christian community, Radio Free Asia reported.
At least 12 Rohingya Christians were injured and hospitalized and the affected families were relocated to a United Nations transit center.
A police case has been filed against 59 alleged assailants. A group of Muslims also filed a separate complaint later, alleging that the violence was the result of Christians assaulting a Rohingya Muslim man.
Taher’s wife, Roshida, said her husband may have been killed and her daughter converted to Islam. “No one can give me any clear information, but my relatives told me that my daughter has been forced to convert to Islam and marry,” she said, according to HRW.
Some camp residents suspect that the attackers are linked to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an armed group whose representative denied and condemned the attacks on Christians, according to Benar News.
“The ARSA … attacked us, the Christians. They looted our houses, and beat up many Christian members. At least 12 Christians have been undergoing treatment at different hospitals and clinics,” a Christian identified only as Saiful was quoted as saying.
Saiful said most of the believers in the camp converted to Christianity in Myanmar and that he and his family crossed into Bangladesh from Baulibazar in Myanmar’s Maungdaw district in 2007.
About 1,500 Rohingya Christians have been living in refugee camps with more than 700,000 predominantly Muslim Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military began its campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2017.
A Christian Rohingya told HRW that camp officials “try to avoid our queries.” Another said a police officer told him that if they wanted to be safe they should “go to the moon.”
In a report on his visit to Bangladesh as the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee said in January that Rohingya Christians were “in a most difficult position.”
“They told me they were persecuted due to their religion by the Myanmar Government while they lived in Rakhine, and now they face hostility and violence from a small number of other camp residents. This worries me.”
HRW has urged the Bangladesh authorities to “urgently locate Taher and his daughter and bring those responsible to justice.”
“The government should also act immediately to protect all vulnerable groups in the country’s refugee camps, including religious minorities like Rohingya Christians."