8 Christians Captured, Forced to Return to Buddhism in Bangladesh

Friday, September 24, 2010

by Joseph DeCaro

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh (Worthy News) -- Buddhist extremists held eight Chakma Christians for four days in order to force them to return to Buddhism.

The Buddhists held a pastor, a church secretary, a village leader and five members from a Baptist church in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The captives were all forced to wear Buddhist robes, shave their heads, bow down before a statue of Buddha and clean the temple; they were also threatened with beatings and even death if they tried to escape.

Detained Aug. 23, they were initially told they would be confined to the temple for one to two weeks, but after four days the Chrsitian captives were released provided they remained Buddhist.

"They are not allowed to pray to Jesus, nor read Bibles, but they say they are still Christian in their hearts," said Josette Lindem, who added that 10 new Chakma churches formed with about 300 Chakmas professing their faith in Jesus. However, persecution of Chakma believers soon increased.

"At times, when violence arises between the Bengalis (Bangladeshi Muslims) and UPDF over land disputes, the Chakma Christians are caught in the crossfire," Grady Lindem said. "The extremists do not feel that the Christians are actively supporting their goals of preserving the Chakma society, since Christians are primarily focused on sharing the Gospel."

In April, the same Buddhists who held the eight Chakma Christians also took three Chakma Christians captive; they too were also forced to wear robes, shave their heads and worship the Buddha. They were given one month to renounce Christianity and return to Buddhism.

"If they do not return to Buddhism, there will be serious consequences and possibly death," Grady Lindem said. "Christians who have the money and means flee their homes at this point."

Buddhist extremists have forbidden Chakma Christians to read the Bible or pray, the Lindems said. Christians are not allowed to enter Buddhist villages, or use bridges, ferries, or roads. They are not allowed to buy food or sell crops, and Buddhist merchants are forbidden by fine from selling to Christians.

"Only when the Chakma Christians appear outwardly as Buddhists in their dress and do not openly pray, read the Bible or evangelize," said Grady Lindem, "can they peacefully live in their villages and their children attend school. Police and (the) army view the situation as a local internal problem within the Chakma people that does not impact the Muslim people, (but) if the Chakma Christians seek help from the courts or the police, the extremists become very angry and the persecution becomes worse."

Leaders of the Bangladesh Baptist Christian Fellowship have tried to meet with the Buddhists to bring an end to the persecution, but to date they haven't had any success.