By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
HONG KONG, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– He was tortured for his Christian faith, but still wanted to “sing the songs of David.” He was naked, but “Jesus Christ” clothed him “with His Love.” Words of Christian rights activist William Nicholas Gomes, a former Muslim who fled rough police and Islamic extremists in his native Bangladesh.
Speaking to BosNewsLife, the 27-year-old Gomes confirmed Thursday, August 25, that he now lives in Hong Kong. “I have received a visa for six months.”
But the young man, who stays in a crowded hostel on the Chinese island territory, misses his young wife Annie Jhumur Halder and two small sons, Felix Eugene and Lalon Mark.
“I am afraid that Muslim fundamentalists will do something bad to her and kill my young sons. They already attacked our house,” he added in an extensive interview with BosNewsLife. “I am not allowed to bring them to Hong Kong, because my wife is a housewife without the ‘right’ qualifications.”
Gomes spoke after a High Court in Bangladesh reportedly ordered police and angry Muslims on Wednesday, August 24, to stop harassing his family in the capital Dhaka. “But I don’t think it will help as there is no rule of law in Bangladesh,” he cautioned.
His distrust of authorities is rooted in experience. On May 21, he was taken off the streets in Dhaka, pushed into a car, and driven to a building of Bangladesh’s notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
The elite police force has been linked to killing at least 200 people since 2009, when the current government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office, according to rights group Amnesty International.
Gomes feared he would be one of those killed. “While driving in the car, they blindfolded me and took away my wallet and mobile phone. Two men put their guns to my head shouting: ‘You’re a son of a dog.’ I am not. I am a child of the living God.”
Authorities had long been following him. “I have been under 24-hour surveillance.”
He had traveled throughout Bangladesh to investigate racial discrimination and other human rights violations in villages on behalf of the independent Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), founded in 1986 by a group of jurists and activists.
Gomes also covered religious rights issues as a reporter for Catholic news agency AsiaNews.
While traveling, he made it a point to pray and speak with people about his new-found faith in Christ. “While walking over often muddy roads, I prayed that each home would become part of the Body of Christ, His Church.”
Gomes believes this angered authorities.
“I am sure I was targeted for my Christian faith,” he said, recalling his recent ordeal.
After driving the frightened Christian to the RAB complex, police allegedly pushed Gomes into an elevator and brought him to the building’s ninth floor for torture. “They undressed me and shouted: “How can you be circumcised and become a Christian?”
Gomes had the answer. Though born in a Muslim family, he said, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in 2003 in the Catholic Church where he also met his wife.
“I was baptized there and grew in the Word of God. My family was initially angry, but my parents soon saw how my wife and I changed because of our faith in Christ.”
Yet, his tormentors were not interested in hearing the Gospel, Gomes told BosNewsLife. “They forced me to bow and stand naked for hours. And threatened to put a boiled egg in my anus. They also wanted me to make the Muslim greeting, but I refused. I am only bowing for God.”
He said he was bleeding because of the mistreatment and falling to the ground. Yet, Gomes stressed, he knew God was with him. “I realized that Jesus was naked when he was put to the cross,” to die for the sins of this world, before his resurrection on the third day, he explained.
They also tried to make Gomes confess to “false accusations that I had spied for Pakistan and other charges.” Eventually police let him go, but he was apparently forced to flee his Asian nation. “The only place where I could go within a day was Nepal.”
Yet, while in Nepal, he said “the Lord” used him to spread the Gospel, or Good News, of Christ. “Last Sunday a friend of mine was baptized there and now attends a mission school.”
Last month, he managed to escape to Hong Kong with AHRC’s financial support. “I am currently also receiving medical attention for post-traumatic stress disorder and take many medicines because of my experience.”
Gomes doesn’t know whether he will be allowed to return to Bangladesh and finish his law studies. “I am afraid that they will abduct me even at the airport. They have detained many Christians, including evangelists. Bangladesh is a country where we can not openly evangelize.”
It was difficult to reach Bangladeshi officials to discuss the situation. Prime Minister Hasina has pledged to end rights violations such as extrajudicial killings by police forces, but Amnesty International says abuses continue.
About 90 percent of Bangladesh’s 142 million people are Muslims, adding to difficulties for minority Christians. “However I pray for my Muslim brothers. Especially for those who tortured me. I stand by them. I am not a magic man, but I will preach the Word through my life,” Gomes said. “Moammar Gadhafi and all the big leaders of this world will one day face God’s justice.”
He acknowledges that he often feels lonely. “I want to ask readers of BosNewsLife, Christians around the world, to pray for me and my family. Prayer is all I need now,” he explained, his voice trembling.
While writing a book about his life (‘The criminal injustice system’) Gomes is also spending time on finding “a living church” in Hong Kong, Asia’s financial hub. “I am not interested in beautifully decorated churches as you can see them here…I want to dwell where I can sing the songs of David, and be glad in the Lord.”
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