Angry Mob Ransacks School,
Churches in Bangladesh
Riot sparked by false accusations

On 28 April, 1998, a large unruly crowd ransacked St. Francis Xavier
Girls’ High School, Holy Cross Church and the nearby Baptist and St.
Thomas’s churches in Dhaka. They threatened the lives of several
priests, sisters and staff workers. The damage to religious freedom and
the mental anguish caused is immeasurable.

This was a deliberate attempt by a group of fundamentalists to arouse
the religious sentiments of common people by making a deliberately
false announcement over the loudspeaker of the adjacent mosque. The
announcement falsely claimed that the mosque was being dismantled by
Christians. The instigators of this riot acted in total disregard for
the judicial and legal system of Bangladesh.

Earlier that same day, the St. Francis Xavier Girls' High School began
renovating a vacant building and clearing the trees on their property
adjacent to the Shahi Mosque. This area is not a mosque or holy area. 
It lies within the designated property of the school. This was not a
sudden action. The school authorities had been stating their intention
to do this work for some time. 

Police were present as they started the work. However, this proved to
be of little value as the police failed to control the crowd. The crowd
was initially obstructed by the police, but they broke through police
lines and rampaged through the school buildings and area, including the
church building. They caused extensive damage to the property. They
terrorized nuns and residents of the girls’ hostel. They were led by
people who wished to attack the Christian institution for their selfish
purposes.

The crowd was then instigated to attack the 175 year-old St. Thomas
church. They smashed windows of the church building and set fire around
it. They smashed doors and windows of the surrounding buildings and
broke down the back wall of the church compound. They threatened the
lives of the residents, who were forced to seek police protection.

Around 6:30 PM the crowd attacked the nearby Sadarghat Baptist church
compound, smashing the gate to gain entrance. Entering the houses of the
residents they smashed furniture and threatened the occupants. The
offices of the Christian Concern were totally ransacked. The destruction
only ceased when a severe rainstorm swept over the area.

This incident has created fear in the local Christian community and
indeed in the total Christian community of the country. But the
instigators are continuing to stir up trouble. A public meeting has
been called by them against Christian activities in Bangladesh.

We ask you to join us in prayer for peace, a just and reasonable
settlement, and wisdom for the government authorities.

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** WEF Religious-Liberty e-mail Conference**
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