Church expresses dismay and warns of evangelicals using charity work as a pretext for conversion
Rohingya refugees near Kutupalong camp. Some 17 Christian Rohingya families in the camp were attacked by Rohingya Muslims on the night of Jan. 26. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)
A leading Christian group has demanded a proper probe and punitive action over an attack on a group of Rohingya Christians in a refugee camp in the Cox’s Bazar district of southeast Bangladesh.
Some 17 Rohingya families, who allegedly converted to Christianity within the past two years, came under attack from Rohingya Muslims in Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya subdistrict of Cox’s Bazar on the night of Jan. 26, the Prothom Alo newspaper reported on Jan. 28.
“We condemn violence among refugees, whatever their identity might be. We call upon the authorities to probe the incident properly and take action against those who perpetrated it,” Nirmol Rozario, president of the Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA), told UCA News.
Rozario said they are trying to get in touch with the police and local administration to understand the situation, while the BCA would send a delegation to visit the area and victims soon.
Violence erupted after an altercation between Christian and Muslim Rohingya led to the vandalism of makeshift shelters of Christian families, a police official said. Eight refugees were injured.
Radio Free Asia reported on Jan. 27 that a victim said the attack was “due to our faith” and it was carried out by members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya extremist group.
Abul Mansur Ahmed, the officer in-charge of Ukhiya police station, admitted a violent incident had occurred but brushed aside a terror link to the attack.
“There was no terrorist connection in the attack. It started over an altercation between a Christian and a Muslim Rohingya, and then it spread to both groups. We have deployed additional security measures and the situation is calm now,” Ahmed told UCA News.
The injured have been sent to hospital for treatment and 17 Christian families have been relocated from their makeshift shelters to a UN transit camp for safety, the official said.
No case has been filed over the incident.
A senior official from a leading national charity told UCA News that there was rising tension in the refugee camp over the alleged conversion of more than 100 Rohingya to Christianity by fringe evangelical groups.
“About a month ago, a senior police official told me that a Christian pastor was detained in the camp after some refugees accused him of converting Rohingya under the guise of carrying out charitable work. He was sent back to Dhaka after he was nabbed,” the official told UCA News on condition of anonymity.
Evangelization in the name of aid activities is deplorable and tarnishes the good image of Christians, the official added.
Holy Cross Father Liton H. Gomes, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, expressed dismay over the incident.
“I can affirm that the Catholic Church had nothing to do with such unacceptable alleged conversion of refugees. But there are some fringe evangelical Christian groups who are overtly interested in conversion, which is dangerous,” Father Gomes told UCA News.
Bangladesh shelters nearly one million Rohingya refugees in some 30 makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar. Most of them fled two deadly military crackdowns in Myanmar in 2016 and 2017 following Rohingya militant attacks on Myanmar security forces.
Rohingya are overwhelmingly Muslim but there are also about 500 Rohingya Hindus living in a separate zone within Kutupalong camp, the largest of the refugee shelters in Cox’s Bazar.
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