Convent attacked, nuns molested in Bangladesh, 12 Muslims arrested

July 17, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

bangladeshDhaka, July 13, 2014: Christians and rights groups in Bangladesh have demanded strict action against those who attacked a convent and tried to rape nuns, the first such incident in the Muslim majority South Asian nation.

“We want exemplary punishment of those involved in the case,” said Nirmol Rozario, general secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association.

According to Aid to the Church, a Church agency, armed men attacked the convent of PIME (Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions) nuns in Boldipuku, a village mission in Dinajpur diocese in northern Bangladesh and tried to loot and rape nuns.

The July 6 attack, by some 60 men, was the first such instance of violence against a Catholic institution in Bangladesh.

Authorities have arrested 12 Muslims in connection with the incident.

“It’s unprecedented because nuns are highly respected in Bangladesh,” Bishop Sebastian Tudu of Dinajpur said. The 47-year-old Santal prelate said the nuns were beaten and molested. The violence only ended when police arrived.

The attackers had come to loot the mission, the bishop said.

Asianews reported that during the assault, three PIME nuns suffered attempted rape and they were sent to their provincial house in Dhaka, the national capital where they are trying to overcome the shock and mental suffering.

“It’s very sad that the sisters cannot continue to work for the people, but our sisters are no longer safe,” lamented Rosaline Costa, a Catholic human rights activist.

“I have lodged strong complaints over the attack on these religious sisters,” she told Asianews. “If the Church is not safe nobody will go to the seminary or formation house to become priest or nun. It is a challenge for Church,” she added and called for stringent punishment to the attackers.

Local Christians live in fear since the attack. The attackers, all Muslims, were looking for land deeds and valuables. It is not the first time they have tried to steal them the land documents, local people said.

The attack began at 2 am on July 6. The attackers first tied the hands and legs of the mission’s two night watchmen and gagged them. They then broke down the door of the room where the assistant pastor Father Anselmo Marandy was sleeping. They raided the convent located in the mission campus.

The PIME nuns manage a primary school in Boldipukur. The attackers wanted to know where the land documents deeds were and even beat up the nuns.

The parishioners are mostly poor and illiterate tribal people and often Muslims try to take over their land. The Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace is working on this problem, but with poor results.

They may also have been looking for land-ownership deeds, which were believed to be left by poor and illiterate members of the community for safekeeping at the mission.

Christians form only 0.8 percent of Dinajpur district’s 3 million people. Muslims account for nearly 77 percent followed by Hindus 21 percent.

The district was once part of the ancient state of Pundravardhana that came under the British in 1786. At the time of Partition of Bengal in 1947, part of greater Dinajpur district was included in West Bengal as West Dinajpur district.

Catholicism entered the area in the 17th century with the arrival of Spanish Carmelite missioners. Until mid-19th century, the area was part of the Krishnagar Mission, now Krishnagar diocese in West Bengal. PIME missionaries, who first came to work in the area in 1855, continue to work there.

In 1952, five years after the partition of the subcontinent, the territory comprising the current Indian dioceses of Dumka, Raiganj and part of Jalpaiguri was detached from the Diocese of Dinajpur. In January 1976, Pabna district along with St. Rita’s Parish in Mathurapur was transferred from Dhaka archdiocese to Dinajpur diocese so that it covered the whole of Rajshahi Division, across Jamuna and Ganges rivers.

In 1990, the southern areas were detached to form the Rajshahi diocese.

– asianews

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