Bangladeshi Christians expressed concern and discontent with the local authorities after a Protestant church was reportedly vandalized and looted last week.
On Feb. 10, four Muslims allegedly entered the Emmanuel Church of Bangladesh in the Aditmari upazila, about 70 miles northeast of Dinajpur. The men approached on motorcycles and attacked the inside and outside of the church.
On the exterior, the perpetrators damaged the church’s sign and cut down trees. After breaking the lock, the attackers entered the church and took 30 chairs and two floor mats.
According to UCA News, Lovlu S. Levy, the community’s pastor, submitted a complaint to the local police Feb. 14, but the authorities have not taken action to investigate. Rather, the police have claimed that the incident was a land dispute.
The pastor said the violence was incited during local Islamic assemblies, during which, he said, hate speeches have been delivered against Christians.
In January, the Daily Star reported, the government also criticized homilies at waz mahfils. Supreme Court Lawyer Md Mahmudul Hasan served a legal notice demanding that sermons be barred if they proposed anti-state rhetoric or false information. The notice also asked that speeches be made with textual references to the Quran or Hadith.
A response to the notice was issued by the secretaries to the ministries of religious affairs, home, education, as well as the director-general of the Islamic Foundation.
“In many cases, alems (scholars) are delivering speeches containing fictional statements, gossip and anti-state rhetorics at waz mahfils. These misleading speeches are disseminated among people through various social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook,” they said, according to the Daily Star.
“It is also seen that, in many cases, our scholars are delivering aggressive speeches against the government and various state institutions using their own opinions and without mentioning the reference of the Holy Quran and Hadith at religious programmes and waz mahfils. Through their speeches, they are creating discord among people.”
Levy said the attack on the parish was not the first religious abuse he has experienced. When Islamic militancy was on the rise in 2015, he said, he received death threats, and, in 2019, he was assaulted by a group of Muslims on the way to work. He said the church’s 46 members have been living in fear since the incident.
“I have been in a panic since the attack. Our constitution allows freedom of religion in the country but fundamentalists have put the freedom under threat. The waz mahfil made various provocative statements about minorities and especially Christians, which encouraged the fundamentalists to attack our church,” Levy told UCA News.