Muslim youths damaged statues of Jesus, Mother Mary and Saint Therese, causing panic among Christians
The damaged interior of Mother Teresa Church after it was vandalized by a Muslim boy on April 3. (Picture: Facebook)
Catholics in Bangladesh’s Rajshahi diocese are feeling anxious after a disbeliever entered a church and desecrated statues of Jesus, Mother Mary and Saint Therese on April 3.
Police arrested Jannatul Ferdous, 22, for breaking into Mother Teresa Church in Joypurhat district and destroying the statues in addition to a copy of the Bible.
The arrested Muslim boy is mentally ill, residents of his village said, but police said they were investigating the incident and would take legal action.
Thank you. You are now subscribed to the daily newsletter
keep up to date Don’t miss the latest news
Speaking to the diocesan online portal Borendradut.com, Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi strongly condemned the incident and demanded strict measures against the culprit.
“Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged,” said the bishop, who is also the president of the Peace and Justice Commission of the Catholic Bishops of Bangladesh.
“Move without fear. God is with us and he will save you. Everyone in Bangladesh has the right to freely practice their religion and this freedom is enshrined in the constitution. None of us are above the law,” he added.
“We want to know who really wants to destroy religious harmony in our neighborhood. The people of the village are panicked and want strict action on the matter”
But local Christians expressed apprehension after the incident. “We never thought that someone would enter the church and damage the holy statues of Jesus, Mother Mary and Saint Therese,” said Subash Murmu, a Catholic church committee official.
He told UCA News that local Catholics had urged police to identify people supporting the arrested Muslim boy. “We want to know who really wants to destroy religious harmony in our neighborhood. The people of the village are panicked and want strict action on the matter,” Murmu told UCA News.
Bangladesh was known as a moderately Muslim majority country until ten years ago. However, since 2013 it has seen an upsurge in Islamic militancy which has so far claimed the lives of 50 people.
Those targeted by radical Islamists include liberal academics, publishers, gay rights activists, secular bloggers, foreigners and religious minorities including Hindus, Shiites, Ahmadis and Christians.
Four Christian clergy, including an Italian Catholic priest, have been attacked and two Christians have been murdered by militants, while dozens have received death threats in the South Asian country.
An estimated 600,000 Christians live in Bangladesh, which has an estimated population of 162 million. The Catholic community, with some 400,000 members, is the largest Christian group.