Updated: July 15, 2021 10:36 AM GMT
Govinda Chandra Pramanik has sparked uproar among Bangladeshi Christians with his comments about Jesus and Christian groups. (Photo supplied)
Christian leaders in Bangladesh have demanded an apology from a Hindu leader accused of hurting religious sentiments by describing Jesus as a “divisive figure” whose words and actions were “Satanic.”
Christians have reacted angrily on social media over the inflammatory comments by Govinda Chandra Pramanik, a Supreme Court lawyer and secretary-general of the Bangladesh National Hindu Grand Alliance, a conservative Hindu group.
He made his controversial comments during a virtual meeting on Hindu family laws on July 8.
He referred to the Gospel of Luke where Jesus said: “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against — or two in favor and three against.”
Pramanik also alleged that Christian groups sow division in Bangladesh’s Hindu community and lure them to convert to Christianity with money and other incentives.
He also claimed that Christians in various parts of the world destroyed ancient societies and religions by force, adding that Greece and the Vatican were once strongholds of Hinduism before Christians captured them and completely changed their characteristics.
A man from another faith who has a shallow understanding of Christianity has no right to misinterpret Christianity
In a statement on July 13, Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA) condemned Pramanik’s remarks and demanded an apology for hurting the religious sentiments of Christians.
“He has defamed the Christian community by derogatory comments about Jesus. He has done it deliberately without understanding the inherent meaning of the Bible’s verses and with an intent to tarnish the image of the Christian community. His comments about Christians converting Hindus with money is also false and groundless,” BCA president Nirmol Rozario told UCA News.
Rozario said the BCA is seeking an unconditional apology from the Hindu leader and the withdrawal of his remarks, warning that it will take “further actions” after discussions with committee members.
Such ridiculous and blasphemous comments pose threats to religious harmony in Bangladesh, he added.
A senior priest and official from the Catholic bishops’ Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue, echoed similar sentiments.
“A man from another faith who has a shallow understanding of Christianity has no right to misinterpret Christianity,” the priest told UCA News on condition of anonymity.
“As a Christian I am in favor of forgiveness, but he must apologize first. Imagine if he made similar comments referring to the Quran — he might face death threats. We just condemn his remarks and seek an apology.”
Christianity has grown and thrived over the centuries through evangelization, not by force or money, and such allegations make no sense, he said.
On June 19, Pramanik and his group held a press conference in Dhaka and accused two women’s groups — Banchte Shekha (Learn How to Survive) and Manusher Jonno Foundation — of attempts to misguide Hindu women to divide Hindu society.
The groups have drawn the ire of conservative Hindu groups with their campaigns for equal rights and dignity for Hindu women who are deprived of inheritance rights under Hindu family law.
Never ever have we converted anyone. We have strongly advocated for equal rights and dignity for all women
Pramanik has also accused Banchte Shekha of converting Hindu women in the guise of development activities
Angela Gomes, a Catholic and founder-director of Banchte Shekha, expressed dismay that she and her group have been accused of dividing and converting Hindu women.
“Never ever have we converted anyone. We have strongly advocated for equal rights and dignity for all women. God won’t forgive those who make such baseless allegations against me,” Gomes told UCA News.
Pramanik, however, defended his stance and refused to apologize for his remarks.
“I have provided references from the Bible and other sources for what I have said. There is no valid reason to issue an apology. And our stance against the two women’s groups are clear as they are dividing the Hindu community for their vested interests,” he told UCA News.
About 90 percent of Bangladesh’s estimated 160 million population are Muslims, about 8 percent are Hindus and the rest belong to other faiths including Christianity and Buddhism, according to government data.