Op-Ed: Save Bangladeshi minority rights activist Mithun Chowdhury
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Op-Ed: Remembering the persecution of Bangladeshi Christians on ChristmasAs Christians around the world celebrate the Christmas holiday, Bangladeshi Christians face a bleak future under the ruling Sheikh Hasina government.
As Christians around the world celebrate the Christmas holiday, Bangladeshi Christians cannot celebrate the holiday with the same level of joy as the people in the Americas and Europe can. This is because they are systematically oppressed, dispossessed, robbed of their lands, murdered, raped and face every other type of atrocity imaginable in their native country merely for believing in the miracles of Jesus Christ, son of Mary.
Take the plight of the Christian Khasi people, a tribal ethnic group in Bangladesh who is systematically robbed of their lands. Due to repeated conflicts with the Bangladeshi government, 25 Khasi villages have now been wiped off the map. Other Khasi villages are in danger of disappearing due to the fact that various tea plantations want to dispossess them of their ancestral tribal lands. This is pure greed on the part of Muslim plantation owners, who feel that they can abuse the Khasi people just because they aren’t Muslim.
As Father Anthony Sen explained, “They have all of this pressure from the powerful people living around them especially the Muslims. They think that as they are a minority people, they can do what they like with them. They even think that they can kidnap their young girls or attack the people. So, they always have this kind of pressure.” Christian human rights activists who try to help the Khasi people receive death threats from Islamist groups and the Bangladeshi government does nothing to protect both the Khasi and their defenders from such violations of basic human rights.
Christians presently make up 0.5% of the Bangladeshi population but it is a huge question mark whether this minority will continue to live in their ancestral homeland in the years to come due to the systematic oppression that they face from the Bangladeshi government and Islamist groups. For example, the local police in Bangladesh raided the home of a local Christian widow and stole her money. When the local Christian community tried to defend the widow, there was a violent confrontation, which resulted in the injury of 20 people. More than 100 Christian villagers were later on charged with interfering with police work.
In another incident this year, Haji Ishak Miyan was given land to be developed by three Christian women. Miyan decided to take the land without paying these women for developing it. To make matters worse, he threatened to shoot these three Christian ladies like birds with the help of the local Awami League. As Christians, these three ladies have nowhere to turn to. While the Bangladeshi Constitution grants Christians the same rights as Muslims, in practice, Christians in my country are oppressed on a daily basis.
The rise of radical Islam within Bangladesh has only made matters worse. Last year, ISIS hacked to death Sunil Gomes after he was leaving his church following Sunday prayers in the village of Bonpara, one of the oldest Christian communities in Bangladesh. Around that same period of time, a Hindu trader was hacked to death and a homeopathic doctor was murdered alongside a Buddhist doctor. And the plight of minorities has not improved in Bangladesh since then, as demonstrated by the recent arson attack targeting 30 Hindu homes over an alleged Facebook post.
Indeed, the present atmosphere in Bangladesh is not only anti-Christian but also anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-opposition. Whenever the minorities try to rise up and to improve their plight, their situation only gets worse. For example, Mithun Chowdhury, an outspoken proponent of minority rights who heads the Bangladesh Janata Party, was imprisoned for trying to change things for the better for Bangladeshi minorities. With his arrest, the Bangladeshi government destroyed the political voice of the Christians, Buddhists and Hindus within my country. Due to such atrocities, increasingly, Christian leaders in Bangladesh are leaving my country because they see no hope for the future.
Therefore, as the head of the Hindu Struggle Committee, it is my wish this holiday season that the Christians within my country will be able to one day light up their Christmas trees and to enjoy their holiday with the same level of joy as the Christians in the Americas and in Europe do. I am working together with Aslam Chowdhury, Mithun Chowdhury and Farouk Chowdhury in order to ensure that the Christians, Hindus and Buddhists will live better lives under a new government that we are presently working on forming. I hope that the Sheikh Hasina government will be no more so that the oppression, dispossession, rape, theft and murder of Bangladeshi Christians and all other minorities within my country will come to an end, sooner rather than later.
Shipan Kumer Basu is the President of the Hindu Struggle Committee, Bangladesh.
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