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Bangladesh: Rohingya Christians are violently attacked within refugee camps

Christians make up about 8.2 percent of the population of Myanmar. Most of them are Protestants, with Roman Catholics comprising most of the rest; there is, however, a small community of Christians who belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, which broke communion with Holy Orthodoxy after the fourth Ecumenical Council, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, over its definition of the two natures of Christ, divine and human. Also, 13th century inscriptions in Greek have been discovered in Myanmar, indicating that there may have once been a Greek Orthodox presence there.

All the Christians of Myanmar today are being harassed and persecuted by the Myanmar government; many of the Christians among the Rohingyas have fled along with Muslims, who make up the vast majority of the Rohingya population, as refugees to Bangladesh. However, now they are facing renewed persecution from Muslims in the refugee camps, a persecution that is particularly cruel, coming as it does after they have already fled their homeland because of persecution there.

“The persecuted turn persecutor as Rohingya Christians are violently attacked within refugee camps in Bangladesh,” Barnabas Fund, September 24, 2019:

Barnabas Fund has received news that a tiny and unknown group of Rohingya Christians amongst the 750,000 mainly-Muslim Rohingya people, who fled genocide at the hands of the Myanmar Army as refugees, are now doubly persecuted as they face renewed violence from Muslims within refugee camps in Bangladesh.

A church leader has contacted Barnabas to tell of an upsurge in violence this month and to plead for prayers for an isolated group of an estimated several hundreds of Rohingya Christian converts from Islam. Already belonging to what some have called the “most persecuted people on earth”, the small community of Rohingya believers are now being subjected to anti-Christian violence from extremist Muslim Rohingya around them in the camps in Cox’s Bazaar district.

In May 2019, a group of 17 families (69 people) living next to each other in simple shacks, some with only mud walls and tarpaulin roofs, were violently attacked on at least three consecutive nights by a Muslim mob of several hundred men armed with knives, swords, iron rods, stones and catapults.

A Christian boy was stabbed in the back and needed hospital treatment. A film shared with Barnabas showed large stones flying over the heads of Christians, including young children, fleeing in a small open truck. The mob also looted possessions including the equipment of a Christian barber, before destroying his small shop and forcing him to go to the mosque to reconvert to Islam.

The May attacks culminated with the threat that the Christians would be killed if they did not leave the camp. The Christians attempted to flee the next day only to be forced back to the camp by police and security guards. No camp security personnel attempted to protect the Christians and there has been no investigation into the attacks.

At another camp, a bamboo-and-tarpaulin church building and a Christian school were demolished on 27 March, and Muslim Rohingya immediately performed their ritual prayer on the site to turn it into a mosque.

The rise in violent persecution against Rohingya Christians this year follows on from calls by Rohingya Muslims in December 2018 for the Bangladeshi government to expel Christians from the camps. One asked for Muslim leaders around the world to “chase them out of this place”.

Rohingya Christians were reported to be struggling in May to buy food and other necessities due to camp shopkeepers boycotting them under pressure from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA, formerly called Harakah al-Yaqin), an extremist group active in the camps. Christians are also often completely left out when international aid, such as rice and mosquito nets, is distributed by Muslim Rohingya in the camps….

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