By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Dozens of devoted Christians have fled their homes in southeastern Bangladesh after militant Buddhists damaged their church, church sources say.
Most of the 50 members of the Bangladesh Tribal Baptist Church in Suandrapara village were reportedly “forced” to flee their homes, fearing more violence.
The church attacks happened when Buddhist militants failed in coercing Christian converts to return to Buddhism, Worthy News learned.
Many of the churchgoers had reportedly converted several years before, despite potential persecution.
Christian advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) expressed concern about the tensions. “Along with the threats, the church building has been physically damaged on two occasions,” VOMC said, citing several sources.
“The Buddhist militants first ordered the church members to demolish their place of worship. When the Christians refused, the assailants destroyed parts of the building, including the front gate and cross, on July 15th,” added the group.
The “oppressors” demanded that there be no further church activities, giving believers seven days to return to their former religion, VOMC said.
“When that deadline passed, the church was again attacked on July 22nd, resulting in additional damages – this time to a wall, door, and the tin roof. The Christians were threatened that there would be further consequences if they reported the incident to the police or members of the media,” the group added.
The church pastor, Tubel Chakma Poran Addition, said in published remarks that church members didn’t report the violence to the police. He suggested they are considered a minority people group within the village, with law enforcement reluctant to intervene. However, “We want to live in peace with [the Buddhists] and discuss things with them," he explained.
He warned that if “collaborative discussion cannot bring about a peaceful resolution, the believers are prepared to take the matter to court.”
Both Christians and Buddhists are a small minority in Bangladesh, with the vast majority of the population being Muslim. Christians comprise less than one percent of the country’s mainly Muslim population of 164 million, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Many Christians face persecution, according to rights groups.