Bangladesh: Elderly Christian Woman's Home Set Ablaze

Friday, January 25, 2008

Set to be baptized in February, 70-year-old suffers burns on 70 percent of body.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (Compass Direct News) -- Unknown attackers tried to burn a 70-year-old woman to death on January 7 after learning that she would be baptized as a Christian next month.

Rahima Beoa, who was planning to be baptized on February 13 in Muslim-majority Rangpur district, 248 kilometers (154miles) northwest of the capital city of Dhaka, suffered burns on 70 percent of her body.

“The unknown people wanted to burn alive the elderly woman because they came to know that she would be a Christian in the next month,” said Khaled Mintu, a regional supervisor of the Rangpur district of the Isha-E-Jamat Bangladesh denomination. “It was a devilish conspiracy to stop her being a Christian.”

Beoa is the mother-in-law of Ashraful Islam, who along with his wife became a Christian two years ago. Close relatives and neighbors were said to be angry with the couple for their conversion from Islam.

The 40-year-old Islam lives in Cinatuly village, located on silty land on Bangladesh’s major Tista river, with his three children and mother-in-law.

“Generally local people become baptized going to the capital city, Dhaka, so that nobody knows anything about the new believers,” said Mintu. “Beoa is so geriatric that it was not very easy to bring her to Dhaka for baptism. Otherwise she would have been baptized long ago.”

Roads from the silty village to Dhaka are rough, and leaving the area means villagers must walk miles to catch a bus.

On the night of the attack, Islam went to the Isha-E-Jamat church with his wife and two smallest children, a service that usually takes place at night as all the villagers are day laborers or vendors.

The service went late into the night as the pastor taught on baptism. News that Beoa and others would be baptized in February was said to have reached the entire village.

While Islam’s mother-in-law and 9-year-old son were sleeping at home, the attackers set their bamboo and wood home ablaze. There were two head of cattle in one corner of the house, which was built with a mansard roof of corrugated tin.

“The boy managed to escape the fire,” Mintu said. “But the elderly woman was injured and got 70 percent burnt on her body, and the cattle and other stuff of the house were incinerated.”

No relatives or neighbors came to put out the fire, he added.

A “quack doctor” treated the elderly woman’s burns in another house, he said, because the family cannot afford treatment in a hospital.

“We did not file any case in the police station against anyone, because we could not trace anyone for that arson attack,” Mintu said.

In 2006, he said, more than 7,000 local Muslims came to vandalize the houses of area Christians. “They wanted to evict us because are Christian,” Mintu said. “With the help of the local government officials and police, we manage to live in this land against the strong opposition of the majority Muslims.”

There are 50 Christian families within two miles in that area, he said, most of them of Muslim upbringing.

Copyright © 2008 Compass Direct