Bangladesh: Christian Rohingya community is too small to see, yet persecuted

December 27, 2023

Muslims make up 90% of the population of Bangladesh; Hindus comprise 8.5%, Buddhists 0.6%, and Christians only 0.4%.

For more coverage of the persecution of Christians in Bangladesh, see here.

“Christian Rohingya: Too small to see, yet persecuted,” by Probir Kumar Sarker, Dhaka Tribune, December 25, 2023:

Some 500 families of the marginalized Christian community spreading over several refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar demand that the authorities ensure adequate security measures as hostility and intimidation have increased significantly in recent months.

They fear that radical Islamists and criminal gangs may launch fatal attacks on their places of worship during Christmas celebrations. These groups have created an atmosphere of religious intolerance by influencing the common Rohingya Muslims living near Christians, they allege.

Members of the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) were deployed at the churches in Rohingya camps on Sunday night.

“Due to fear of repercussion, many Christians refrain from revealing their identities. We can’t build permanent churches at the camps and have not been allotted any land for graveyards either,” said Peter Saiful, the 26-year-old pastor of a church who was born in Bangladesh.

His family came to Bangladesh during an exodus in 1990-91 and has stayed in several camps before shifting to the Transit Centre in 2020 following a barbaric attack launched by some Muslims targeting Christians.

Currently, the Christians living in several refugee camps account for between 2,000 and 2,500, against a population of over 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims.

Despite being a small minority group, nowhere in the camps where they reside, mainly camps 13, 27, and the Transit Centre, have the Christians gotten any land for burial or for setting up a church. Rather, some Christians have been forced to convert to Islam, while others are pressurized to convert voluntarily.

The first batch of Christian Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh during an exodus in 1990-91; later, some of the families were forced to return to their homeland in the Rakhine State of Myanmar in 2003, while others got registered, meaning they were allowed to stay in specialized camps in Cox’s Bazar and entitled to rations.

After 4-5 years, some of the families came back and took refuge in the cramped camps, while the last largest caravan of Christian Rohingyas joined them in 2017. After six years, they have remained marginalized and are constantly subjected to hostility and violence of a communal nature for their faith. According to several community leaders who spoke to Dhaka Tribune, they also lack adequate support for exercising the rituals.

The Christian community leaders allege that members of the radical Islamist groups and criminal gangs intimidate them whenever they expose their faith—as they perform weekly prayers, celebrate Christmas and Holy Week, or when they need to bury a Christian.

These violent gangs pressurize the Christians to convert to Islam voluntarily while influencing the common Muslims to hate the Christians and ostracize them. They consider it an Islamic movement, a pastor told Dhaka Tribune, preferring to remain anonymous. He alleged that some Bengali officials and residents in the adjoining areas also advocate conversion to Islam….