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Bangladeshi Catholics demand justice 21 years after church bombing

Police have yet to complete their investigation into the killing of 10 Catholics in 2001
Church leaders, members of the Bangladesh Christian Association and laypeople join a candlelit procession seeking justice for murdered Catholics in Dhaka on June 5

Church leaders, members of the Bangladesh Christian Association and laypeople join a candlelit procession seeking justice for murdered Catholics in Dhaka on June 5. (Photo: UCA News)

Published: June 07, 2022 03:30 AM GMT
Updated: June 08, 2022 08:35 AM GMT

Church leaders and heads of Christian organizations in Bangladesh are demanding justice for the killing of 10 Catholics in a church bombing 21 years ago and the murder of a Catholic man six years ago.

On June 3, 2001, 10 people were killed and many more injured in a bomb attack on a Catholic church in Baniarchar in Gopalganj district.

Almost exactly 15 years later, on June 5, 2016, Sunil Gomes was hacked to death in his grocery store by unknown assailants after Sunday Mass in the northern district of Natore.

Investigators have not filed a charge sheet in either case.

Meetings were held demanding the speedy trial of the culprits, wreaths were laid at the graves of victims, and prayers were recited for the peace of their souls.

A prayer service for the victims was held at the Holy Rosary Church in Dhaka on June 5. At a rally that day, relatives of the victims, church leaders and leaders of the Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA) demanded a speedy investigation and trial over the church bombing.

“Every year we seek justice in this way, but to no avail. I want my husband's murderers to be tried. I will never get my husband back, but at least I will get peace if I can see their sentence in my life"

Lolita Biswas, 42, a Catholic mother of one and a widow, is among those seeking justice for the bombing of the Most Holy Redeemer Church in Baniarchar. Her husband Satish was among the 10 people killed when Islamic militants exploded a bomb inside their parish church.

“Every year we seek justice in this way, but to no avail. I want my husband's murderers to be tried. I will never get my husband back, but at least I will get peace if I can see their sentence in my life,” Lolita told UCA News. 

“Sometimes I lose patience and say that justice will not be done. But those who committed this murder should be punished. We appeal to the government to expedite the trial and provide punishment.”

Even after 21 years, the police have not completed their investigation. Some 38 suspected militants have been arrested but none have reportedly confessed their involvement in the bombing. During the course of the investigation, officers have been changed 19 times.

“It is very sad as a citizen of the country not to get justice,” said Father Subroto Gomes, promoter of justice notaries of Dhaka Archdiocese.

"Both the cases are sensitive and are being monitored by high-ranking officials. The charge sheet will be issued soon after the mystery is revealed"

“The fundamentalists will get more courage if such a horrifying incident is not brought to justice in secular Bangladesh. I will tell the government it is our right to get justice. This trial is very important in the interests of maintaining religious neutrality,” Father Gomes said during the candlelit rally.

Hemanta Carraya, secretary of the BCA, told UCA News that if the government does not pay attention to justice, then protesters will stage a bigger movement. "If necessary, we will put forward a campaign like fasting to death. Church leaders must stand by us in this movement,” he said.

The organization has demanded that the two cases be investigated by the police bureau of investigation under the Crime Investigation Department (CID).

"Both the cases are sensitive and are being monitored by high-ranking officials. The charge sheet will be issued soon after the mystery is revealed,” said Afsar Uddin, assistant superintendent of police of Faridpur CID office and investigating officer of the Baniarchar case.

The investigating officer in the Sunil Gomes murder case could not be contacted.

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