07/30/2021, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Christians flee after two attacks by Buddhist radicals against their church

by Sumon Corraya

The group of radicals damaged the brick and tin-roofed building and made threats against the 50 members of the Bangladesh Tribal Baptist Church in order to get them to return to Buddhism.

 

Rangamati (AsiaNews) – Christian residents of Suandrapara, a village in the hilly district of Rangamati, fled after they and their church were attacked, twice.

The Christian villagers belong to the Bangladesh Tribal Baptist Church, which provided funding for the construction of the local church.

Rev Tubel Chakma Poran Adetion, the local assistant pastor in Suandrapara, told AsiaNews that since the attacks by Buddhist radicals, they live in fear.

"We were Buddhists and we met Jesus Christ in 2005. In January of this year, we built a church with funding from the Bangladesh Bawm Tribal Baptist Church.

“Every day we gathered and prayed, but the local Buddhist majority didn't like it. They attacked us and demolished our Church twice.”

On 12 July, some Buddhist radicals led by Joan Chakma told them to tear down the church within three days. Joan Chakma is a leader of the United People's Democratic Front (UPDF), a local political group.

Church members did not give in and on July 15 Joan Chakma's group attacked them, broke the gate, cross and parts of the church (pictured).

They also ordered them to stop all kinds of Church activities and return to their old Buddhist religion. They gave them seven days to do so.

On July 22, after the deadline, they again attacked the faithful and broke a Church wall and its door and damaged the building’s tin roof.

The attackers also warned the Christians that if anyone reported the incident to any media or made a complaint to the police station, they would face dire consequences.

No mainstream media reported the story, but some people posted it on social media.

“We did not go to the police station for security reasons,” said Rev Tubel Chakma Poran Adetion. “We are a minority and Buddhists can do whatever they want with us.

“We want to live in peace with them and discuss things with them.” However, if radical Buddhists don't listen, the Christians will eventually sue them.

“Radical Buddhists warned us to completely destroy the Church, but we will not. Even if we have to sacrifice our lives.

“They threaten us in order to get us to return to our old religion, but we will not return. Jesus Christ is our saviour. We will die for Him,” Rev Tubel insisted.

Church leaders are worried. Rev Leor P Sarker, general secretary of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship (BBCF), a Protestant church organisation in Bangladesh, told AsiaNews that he was informed of the attack on their church in Rangamati.

“We are concerned about our members,” he explained. “There are about 50 of them. They live in fear. Most of them are staying away from their homes to protect their life after the attack.

“We are praying for the attackers, that they may change their way of thinking and let our people live there in peace.”

Rev Leor wants security for his fellow Christians. He notes that ethnic Chakma Christians in Suandrapara began to pray in a small house in 2005.

Radical Buddhists didn't take it well when local church members built a brick and tin-roofed church in the village. This angered them. Now they are threatening the Christians in order to get them to return to their old religion.

Christians represent only 0.4 per cent of Bangladesh’s 166 million people, most of whom are Muslim.

In different parts of the country, local and foreign missionaries preach the Word of God.

Although new believers often face persecution from members of their old faith community, there is tremendous opportunity in Bangladesh to preach the Gospel and extend the Kingdom of God.

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