At least one person was injured and a chapel and several homes were ransacked in a predominately Christian village in northern Bangladesh after a mob led by a Muslim man attacked the community over a land dispute.
A mob of about 60 armed men attacked a grocery shop, homes, and a chapel in Ichhachhara village in Moulvibazar district of the Muslim-majority South Asian country last Saturday after authorities evicted a Muslim man from land owned by a Christian, UCA News reported.
The majority of the residents of the village are ethnic Khasi Christians. The Muslim man, identified as Rafiq Ali and who led the mob, had lost a legal battle over the ownership of land in the village. He had illegally occupied land owned by a local Christian.
“The attackers also pelted bricks and stones at village houses,” Father Joseph Gomes was quoted as saying. “One villager was hurt. We demand justice for the attack and the end of abuses against ethnic people.”
Ethnic Khasi people are often subjected to land grabbing, eviction and violence in the northeast of Bangladesh.
The number of Christians in Bangladesh is estimated at 1.6 million, which comprises around 1% of the country's population.
Muslim radicals often have a level of impunity because police in Bangladesh tend to turn a blind eye to the persecution of religious minorities, Christian Freedom International said in an earlier report.
Despite reports that Christianity is growing in the country, CFI emphasized that Christians are forced to keep their worship activities secretive to prevent “retaliation” for their faith.
“Churches, especially house churches where Muslim-background believers meet, prefer not to display any Christian symbols in order to avoid being recognized,” a report from the Christian persecution watchdog ministry Open Doors U.K. stated earlier. “Sometimes, even historic or mainline churches face opposition and restrictions in putting up a cross or other religious symbols.”
Earlier this year, 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, home to thousands of refugees who fled ethnic and religious persecution in neighboring Myanmar.
The attack took place on Jan. 27 by machete-wielding Muslim Rohingya men on a Christian community, Radio Free Asia reported.
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.”