Catholics in Bangladesh demand justice for death of 94-year-old parishioner

The attacks have created an atmosphere that intimidates Christians into silence whenever they face persecution

A Catholic diocese in a predominantly Muslim village in Bangladesh called for justice for the death of an elderly parishioner whose residence was looted by still unidentified men.

A least a hundred people staged a demonstration in the village of Padrishibpur in the Diocese of Barishal to demand for the arrest of the attackers of 94-year-old Melcome D. Costa.

“We want justice!” and “My brother Melcome is in the grave, why are the killers free?”

Reports said at least three men entered the house of Melcome on January 29 after he and his family were drugged.

The old man was reportedly attacked when he tried to stop the looters who took with them almost US$9,000 worth of jewelries.

“We are attacked because we are a minority. We don’t seek action or protest when attacked,” said Father Anol Terence D’Costa, convenor of the social communications office of the diocese.

The priest said several other incidents of harassments and attacks have been reported in the past, including the rape of a young girl, but investigations into the cases remain pending.

Archbishop Lawrence Subrato Howlader of Chattogram, apostolic administrator of Barishal, joined calls for the immediate arrest of the attackers.

Villagers said Christians have been the target of attacks because of their being a minority in the area.

“We are all Bangladeshi citizens, but why are we persecuted?” said Andrew D’Costa, one of the demonstrators.

“We are a minority group, but we want to live peacefully in our country,” he said, adding that he also wanted to see the perpetrators punished.

While Christians have a presence in the village, it is part of a Catholic diocese that was only established in 2015.

Christians are a small minority within the country, and residents report that the village has struggled recently with increased persecution.

“We are praying for the speedy recovery of D’Costa’s family and also that they may find comfort in their grief,” said Claire Evans, regional manager for South Asia with International Christian Concern.

“Sadly, Christians living as minorities often experience revenge attacks whenever they try to utilize the judicial system in response to an act of persecution,” added Evans.

She said the attacks create an atmosphere that “intimidates Christians into silence whenever they face persecution.”

“We urge that the authorities conduct a transparent investigation of due process into this incident, that the perpetrators are brought to justice, and that all witnesses to this latest incident are protected from further persecution,” said Evans.

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