The Washington-DC based human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC), with Website, told BosNewsLife that 450 people held a candlelight vigil recently to mark the sixth anniversary of a "tragic bomb attack at the Roman Catholic Church of Baniarchar in Bangladesh."

In 2001, Muslim militants carried out what ICC described as "a Jihad attack" during Mass in a Catholic Church of Baniarchar’s Gopalgonj district, ICC said. "There were approximately 500 Catholics in attendance at church the morning of June 3, 2001, when the bomb planted by Muslim extremists ripped through the service, killing 10 people and wounding many more," added the group which has close contacts with Christians in Bangladesh.

Although the church has remembered the bomb blast ever since, "it appears the government has all but forgotten what happened, as no criminal investigation has made any progress since the incident was first reported," ICC said. A case was submitted to local police and then sent to the country’s Criminal Investigation Department of Police, "but neither office has submitted an investigative report – six years later," ICC the group claimed.


"The victims’ families have been longing for justice from the government for the murders, but they are afraid to speak up because for fear they will make themselves become targets for more Jihadist attacks," ICC explained. Jihad, meaning "to strive" or "to struggle" in Arabic, is an Islamic term and a duty for Muslims, and often used by militants as an excuse to carry out attacks, experts say. 

"The parishioners of the church, which has since been repaired, continue to remember what happened and pray for justice. During the evening of June 3, 2007, a group of Christians gathered at the graveyard of the martyrs and prayed together by candlelight," with the sound of weeping reverberating throughout the area, according to ICC investigators.

The killed Christians were identified as Sanjiban Baroi, Peter Saha, Michael Mollik, Rodrix Jethra, Binod Das, Monnoth Sikdar, Amar Biswas, Jatish Biswas, Jhintu Mondol and Sumon Halder. Families of these victims "have been financially broken" since they lost their loved ones, because six of the ten people killed were the only son who could support their family members, ICC said. In impoverished Bangladesh, family members often rely on each other for support.


ICC Policy Analyst Jeremy Sewall said that the "tragedy of this senseless attack is only compounded by the blatant indifference of the Bangladeshi government. Such negligence is simply a way for the authorities to say to religious minorities – ‘You are not welcome here.’ In the midst of Bangladesh’s current crisis, a good first step towards preserving democracy would be for the government to prove that it will protect minorities by taking action to apprehend and prosecute the Muslim extremists who are behind the tragedy of Baniarchar.”

Officials in Bangladesh could not immediately be reached for comment. ICC said it has been urging supporters around the world to call the Bangladeshi embassy in their country "and politely but firmly ask them to pursue justice for the families who lost their loved ones" in the bomb attack.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns about what they see as growing Islamic extremism in Bangladesh where Christians comprise less than one percent of the mainly Muslim population of about 150 million people, according to official estimates. Adding to the difficulties are political tensions. In January elections were cancelled and a state of emergency was declared. The caretaker administration has said a ballot will take place at the end of 2008.


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