Following a 10 day visit to Bangladesh, Heiner Bielefeldt, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, has told ucanews.com that the rise in religious extremism is instilling a climate of fear among Bangladesh’s ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians.
He added that authorities are not doing enough to find justice for victims of violence targeting ethnic and religious minorities.
“There are allegations of attack, murder and rape of indigenous people, but they are not often efficiently investigated,” Bielefeldt said. “So religious and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh live in a climate of physical and legal insecurity.”
As part of his visit, Bielefeldt met with government officials, parliamentarians, human rights activists, civil society organizations, indigenous leaders and religious organisations, including members of the Christian community.
Bielefeldt said Christian leaders he met with told him of their fears of a rise in Islamic extremism.
“There are incidents of looting of churches and violence against Christian men and women. Other people might see these just as sporadic incidents, but from minorities’ perspectives, it is seen in a broader context. Often, these are not taken seriously. So, the fear is there.”
“Extremism rises when there is endemic poverty, unemployment and corruption prevail, and people lose their trust in public institutions. If Bangladesh wants to check extremism, it must tackle all these contributing factors.”
Bielefeldt praised Christians for initiating inter-religious conversations that seek to bring together representatives from majority and minority religious groups.
Islam dominates in Bangladesh, with Muslims comprising about 90 percent of the country’s 160 million people. Hindus represent about 8 percent, while Christians and Buddhists represent only a small percentage of the population.
- Pray for Christians in Bangladesh, and for the Bangladesh Church. Pray for protection and a unwavering faith in the face of increased opposition.
- Pray for the Government of Bangladesh, to address the social issues that can give rise to extremism, and to seek to protect it’s religious minority groups, including Christians.
- Pray for the spread of the Gospel and growth of the Church across Bangladesh.
Psalm 9 vs 10: “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”