[WCC] Thirteen years after the bomb attack at the Catholic Church of Baniarchar in Bangladesh which killed ten people and injured more than twenty in 2001, Christians representing member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Bangladesh, along with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in Dhaka, expressed solidarity with the victims of the attack and demanded speedy justice for them.
These expressions of solidarity were the highlight of a rally held on 3 June in Dhaka, gathering some 200 people among whom were representatives of the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh (NCCB).
The rally was organized by the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council.
Participants in the protest rally appealed to Bangladeshi government authorities to investigate the attacks and bring the attackers to trial, insisting that “justice delayed is justice denied”.
“As a church we condemn any acts of violence such as the attack on the Baniarchar church because incidents like these can put Bangladeshi values of peaceful co-existence and social harmony into danger,” said Rev. David A. Das, general secretary of the NCCB.
He added that even after so many years, no compensation has been offered to families of the victims. “We appeal to the government and concerned authorities to look deep into the matter and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Das added.
“The Bangladeshi constitution guarantees freedom of religion. However, to implement the spirit of the constitution and protect the rights of religious minorities, threats of extremism must be curtailed,” he said.
It is unfortunate how a small minority such as Christians in Bangladesh were attacked, said Biplob Barua, a Buddhist leader and organizing secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council.
“We want to remind our government that they are responsible for the protection of all communities, in accordance with our constitution which upholds human rights of all people regardless of their religious association. These values are integral for the wellbeing of the entire Bangladeshi nation,” he added.
Dr Kazol Debnath from the Hindu community and presidium member of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, said that “while we are remembering victims, we must bring the government's attention to the terrorist groups like the ones who attacked the church on 3 June. These groups conduct such activities to manipulate political purposes,” he said.
“The government must show more support and insure protection of human rights guaranteed in the 1971 constitution of Bangladesh. Our foundational values promote rights of all citizens regardless of their religion, ethnicity, cast or creed,” said Debnath.
The WCC has been supporting its member churches, as well as faith-based and civil society organizations in Bangladesh, in their struggle for the protection of human rights, especially in relation to religious minorities. In March, a conference in Geneva sponsored by the WCC's human rights programme, its Commission of the Churches on International Affairs and the Bangladesh Minority Council addressed issues related to human rights in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh, a Muslim majority country of more than 150 million people has some 10 percent of people belonging to non-Muslim religious communities.
WCC programme on human rights
WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs
WCC member churches in Bangladesh