ASIA/BANGLADESH - The National Director of the PMS: "Islamism grows, but many Muslims appreciate us"

Thursday, 1 June 2017 religious freedom   religious minorities   terrorism   isis   islam   political islam   pontifical mission societies   missionaries  

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "The situation in Bangladesh is worrying with regards to the rise of terrorist groups that are said to be linked to the Islamic State. A couple of months ago also the guard of my parish, Santa Rita church in the diocese of Rajshahi, was attacked during the night and wounded. The radical Islam propaganda which comes from the Middle East continues. After the attack in Dhaka the government has strengthened security measures, but it does not do enough to cut roots in the preaching of hatred and violence": says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Dilip Costa, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (POM) in Bangladesh.
The Director reports of the "traditional presence of Islamic groups and parties in Bangladesh", but also of the "new wave of militants related to the Islamic State, which in particular leaves an impression on young people, promoters of attacks towards social activists, bloggers, and Catholic missionaries. Today, missionaries are escorted for all pastoral activities and a rather small number of them remain in the nation", he notes. "All non-Islamic religious minorities are targeted but also Muslims who do not share that narrow version of Islam or those who promote a secular view of the state, society and justice", observes Fr. Coasta.
An episode appears significant: in recent days the statue depicting a Hindu reinterpretation of "Themis", the Greek goddess of justice, was removed from the square in front of the Supreme Court of Dhaka due to the pressures of fundamentalist Islamic movements such as "Hifazat-e-Islami, Shah Ahmed Shafi", who called it "idolatry". The statue was then relocated to another peripheral building of the same institution.
"We local priests, though with circumcision and vigilance, continue our pastoral activities, trusting in God. Our evangelical testimony is not conditioned and gives hope. Many appreciate it: the government, Muslim people, parishioners. In my diocese 80% of Muslim childeren attend the Santa Rita da Cascia school. Muslim families greatly appreciate our work and support us".
In Dhaka, the priest concludes "I teach at the Major Seminary in Banglandesh, where about 90 seminarians are the future and hope of our little Church. The Lord is kind to us and our confidence in God remains firm, despite the difficulties, he concludes.
In Bangladesh, Christians are a scarce minority and represent just 0.4% of the population: about 600,000 faithful, out of a total of 160 million people, including 350,000 Catholics. (PA) (Agency Fides, 1/6/2017)

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