By Eric Leijenaar, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent and BosNewsLife Asia Service
DHAKA, BANGLADESH (BosNewsLife) -- Muslim militants raided and destroyed a 'house church' in Bangladesh as part of an operation to expel Christians from the region, a group representing the believers said Tuesday, August 5.
Netherlands-based Open Doors, an advocacy groups investigating cases of Christian persecution, told BosNewsLife that the pastor of the house church in the village of Buglegari was "beaten up" during the August 1 raid.
The pastor, who was identified only as Majid, was also forced to mention names of co-workers, the group said, adding that local authorities have launched an investigation into the outburst of violence.
Majid, a former Muslim, has fled to a safe area, amid reports that he and other believers are under mounting pressure to â€œreconvertâ€ to Islam. â€œThe Muslim extremists have launched a witch hunt against missionaries and other Christians in the region, where many believers are now fleeing,â€ Open Doors said. Those who stayed behind are afraid to leave their homes amid fear they will be killed by the militants, Open Doors said, citing local sources in the area.
"Muslim villagers have written a petition to local authorities to ban Christian activities in the surrounding area," a local pastor said in a statement released by Open Doors, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If their demands are not fulfilled within 20 days they threaten to take action themselves," the pastor was quoted as saying.
The house church was opened last month for some seventy ex-Muslims and their families, BosNewsLife learned. "However the church members encountered fierce opposition from the very beginning," Open Doors said.
The latest tensions have underscored concerns among churches and rights groups about the situation of Christians in the predominantly Muslim Asian nation. Especially Islamic extremist groups have growing influence in Bangladesh, making life more difficult for Christians and other religious minorities, Open Doors said.
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