BANGLADESH: MUSLIMS THREATEN PASTOR FOR EVANGELIZING


Previously beaten in a mosque, evangelist has faced opposition for more than a year.

DHAKA, Bangladesh, January 6 (Compass Direct News) – The torture and harassment that a Christian pastor in Meherpur district has faced for more than a year loomed anew last month when a 4,000-strong crowd of Muslims celebrating Islam’s largest festival accused him of “misleading” Muslims.

Jhontu Biswas, 31, said residents of Fulbaria town, 270 kilometers (168 miles) west of Dhaka, accused him of misleading Muslims by distributing Christian booklets. They confronted him en masse on Dec. 9 as they gathered for the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival of sacrifice.

“They also accused me of converting poor people by offering money,” said Biswas. “They called several local journalists in that massive assembly to publish news against me and my activities. They took my photograph and interviewed me but did not publish anything in their respective newspapers.”

Biswas denied the accusations against him, and the Muslims threatened to harm him and others who converted from Islam to Christianity, especially in the event of a hard-line Islamic government coming to power following Dec. 29 elections, he said.

“They said, ‘You will be in great trouble at that time,’” Biswas said.

Fortunately for Biswas, the left-leaning Awami League-led Grand Alliance won a landslide victory in the election, and it does not include Islamic fundamentalist parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami. Prior to Bangladesh’s national election on Dec. 29, the country was ruled for two years by an army-backed, caretaker government that imposed a countrywide state of emergency.

Had the previous Bangladesh Nationalist Party coalition government including Jamaat-e-Islami come to power, area Christians said they would be in even greater danger.

“We hope that we can work our religious activities properly during the tenure of this government, and also hope that this government will ensure all of our constitutional rights regarding religious activities,” Biswas said.

 

Beaten in Mosque

The pastor has been under continuous pressure to give up his faith and not spread Christianity since he was baptized on Feb. 14, 2007, he said. He was in a meeting with members of his church on Dec. 31, 2007, he said, when police suddenly surrounded the building and dragged him out.

A drug peddler, a 36-year-old woman named Fulwara Begum, had left a bag full of illegal drugs behind his church in accordance with a plan hatched by area Muslims, he said. They informed police, and officers arrested him for drug possession and sale – but instead of taking him to the police station, they took him to a nearby mosque.

“It was a trick to arrest me and slander my reputation so that I cannot do evangelical activities here,” said Biswas. “They told me, ‘If you accept Islam after confessing to Christianity and ask forgiveness of Allah, we will not do anything against you and release you.’ They beat me with sticks in the mosque after my vehement denial to their proposal.”

Police called on a Muslim cleric to encourage Biswas to seek forgiveness for embracing Christianity.

The following day, Jan. 1, 2008, police sent him to Meherpur central jail on drug charges, but the jailer would not admit him because of his battered condition. Police took him to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for five to six hours. He was subsequently put into jail.

“Whenever I did not agree with them, police beat me inhumanely in the police station,” he said. “They tried to brainwash me into accepting Islam throughout almost the whole night. But I did not agree with them. Then they tortured me.”

After 20 days in jail, Biswas was released on bail.

 

Elderly Shop Owner Struck

On Aug. 16, Muslim extremists had vandalized a grocery store near Biswas’ church. The 78-year-old owner of the shop, Abdus Sobhan, told Compass that he was beaten and his shop was looted. They also hurled stones and bricks at the nearby church.

“My angry Muslim neighbors did it,” Sobhan said. “Around seven to eight people came on that night and vandalized the shop. I am a poor man. That shop was my only source of living. They demolished it and looted stuffs of around 30,000 taka [US$443].”

Area Muslims put a sign near the shop that designated it as that of a Christian and stating, “Do not buy anything from here.”

Sobhan went to police to file a case. Instead, officers asked him barrage of questions about why he became a Christian. Resigned, he left the police station.

The father of nine daughters and two sons, Sobhan said he became a Christian on Feb. 24, 2007 along with his wife.

The president of the Assembly of God church in southern Khulna division, Jonathan Litu Munshi, told Compass that Biswas was the first Christian in the area. Through him 200 to 230 people have received Christ as their redeemer in the predominantly Muslim area within the past year and a half.

“Local people filed a false case against him to torture him so that he does not continue his religious activities,” said Munshi. “Unfortunately a septuagenarian convert was also beaten in that area for his faith in Christ.”

The Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami is influencing the area residents, Christians said, adding that party workers have persuaded Muslims not to hire Christian converts, who are largely day-laborers eking out a living.  

Report from Compass Direct News

BANGLADESH: DNA INDICATES ASSAULT ON PASTOR’S DAUGHTER


Initial forensic test indicating no sexual attack further cast into doubt.

DHAKA, Bangladesh, August 18 (Compass Direct News) – Following a dubious forensics test indicating no evidence of sexual assault, a second DNA test links one of five men accused of gang-raping a village pastor’s daughter to sperm found on her clothing.

Pastor Motilal Das of Laksmipur village says he found his 13-year-old daughter lying unconscious in front of his house early in the morning of May 2 after five men from Mymensingh district raped her. Villagers were upset at his evangelistic efforts and had raped his daughter, according to the pastor, in an effort to drive him from the area.

DNA profiling expert Ahmed Ferdous of the National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) told Compass the results of the second test have been sent to police and court officials.

“The profile matched in the test and the DNA report turned out positive, which apparently shows that the girl was raped or sexually assaulted,” Ferdous said.

Villagers in Laksmipur, in Fulbaria sub-district 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital, believe relatives of the accused men paid off the Mymensingh Medical College Hospital Forensic Department, which conducted the first test, to conclude there were no signs of sexual assault.

Mymensingh Medical College Hospital Forensic Department head Akhteruzzaman Talukder denied the accusations, telling Compass that Das’s daughter “might have had a love affair with someone in the village.” (See Compass Direct News, “Rape Case Medical Report in Bangladesh Called False,” June 6.)

Das said relatives of the alleged rapists have offered him a large sum of money to withdraw the case or settle out of court – while continuing to threaten him.

“Some relatives of the rapists told me to compromise with them by withdrawing the case,” he told Compass. “They told me that if I do not compromise with them, they will evict us from the village and our life will be in great danger.”

 

Charges Imminent

The pastor of United Bethany Church said officers told him and his wife that police are continuing the investigation based on the new forensics report, which a police inspector showed to them.

“The police told us the DNA report is positive and it is the acknowledgement of the rape case,” Das said.

Local police inspector Tarapad Shikder told Compass that charges will be filed after the investigation is completed into the alleged rape of Elina Das, who said she was attacked as she went to an outdoor latrine at 3 a.m on May 2.

“Sperm of the of the arrested person has been found on Elina’s clothing according to the DNA report,” Shikder said. “We are investigating the case whether she was raped, and if not, then how is it that the sperm is found on Elina’s clothing.”

While police are still investigating whether the laboratory results indicate rape or sexual molestation, Das said police told him that the new DNA report was sufficient to file charges, he said.

“Police assured me that the charge sheet against the rapists will be submitted to the court soon, and that they do not need any further evidence because the DNA report has everything they need,” the pastor said.

Das and his Muslim neighbors had expressed outrage at the previous forensic report by Mymensingh Medical College Hospital last June. Subsequently the pastor went to DMCH for a second DNA test on June 8.

Babul Mia, a 32-year old Muslim neighbor of Das, said the previous forensic report suggesting that Elina Das may have had a “love affair” with one of the accused men was “an out-and-out lie.”

“The criminals are far too aged – none of them so far identified is her classmate or in the same age range,” Mia said. “What happened to her is inhumane, and I do not find any reason why such a minor girl would be raped. An outburst of religious anger because of their different [Christian] faith could be the cause of this inhuman activity.”

Elina Das has identified two of the alleged rapists and could identify the others if she saw them or their pictures, according to her father. Police have arrested Shebul Miah, 22. The girl identified another suspect, 32-year-old Dulal Miah, alias Dulu, who remains at large.

Muslim villagers and neighbors continued to show their support for pastor Das’ family.

“We, all the people of this area, want that there should be proper judgment of this gang-rape, and this report gave us a ray of hope that the rapists would be punished,” 45-year-old farmer Chan Miah of the same village told Compass. “I pray to almighty Allah that not a single girl in the society does experience such brutality in her life – whether she is Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim.”  

Report from Compass Direct News