By William Gomes
A Catholic family of the Dhaka diocese, under the St. Lawrence Catholic Church, was attacked by local Muslims on Oct. 22, 2009, at around 7:30 p.m. Some people fired guns aimed at the house of the Catholic family. The St. Lawrence Catholic Church is a Catholic church with 1,000 Catholic families.
Rita Gomes, the elder daughter of the family, said, “Our Muslim neighbor, Kazi Babul’s wife, and her allies have been trying to evict us from the house for more than a year.”
“On Oct. 8, 2009, a group of 150 Muslims came to our house and forcefully put up a wall and took possession of our land, in the presence of the local police,” said Gomes.
Rita Gomes said, “There was an injunction from the court about the land that they are claiming for their own, so they cannot put up a wall or do anything without violating the court order. When they came with a group of 150 Muslims on Oct. 8, 2009, to put up the wall, I went to request them not to do that. In the presence of the police, they hit me, yet the police remain silent. I felt very helpless at that time; I realized that even the law enforcement agency people wouldn’t come to help me.”
She went on to say, “My father is very sick, my mother is very helpless and prays to Mother Mary for our protection, and my younger sister, Jhumur, who will soon become a nun, prays and prays for our safety.”
Jhumur Gomes, the younger daughter of the family, said, “I am just praying and preparing to sacrifice myself for the sacred life. Our family is in full danger; we don’t know what will happen next or if they will come and kill us.”
The Bishop of Khulna, Rev. Bejoy N. Cruze, who was visiting Dhaka, came to the house of the persecuted Christians and offered a prayer for them, especially for Jhumur, the younger daughter, who will join the sacred life.
Rita Gomes said, “I am really very afraid that they may kill us or rape me and my younger sister; they are really very ferocious. Our other neighbors, another Catholic family, were forced to sell their land, and they finally went to India. The Muslim neighbors also proposed for us to sell our land to them, but where will we go? As we are Christians, no one is coming to help us; all the Muslims are on their side, because they have money and are powerful politically. They have strong ties with the leading political party, the Bangladesh Awami League party that is ruling Bangladesh.”
She went on to say, “There was a nameplate for our house with a cross on the main door of the house that they had removed. In its place, they put ‘Allahu Akbar,’ or Allah is great. We were confined to our house for days, because they blocked the road, so that we cannot leave the house.
“My father, Sunil Gomes, and my mother, Usha Gomes, are both aged; if something happened to us, they might get heart attacks, especially my father who has heart disease and who got sick after such an attack.”
Sunil Gomes said, “I want to leave in peace. If something bad happened to my daughters, if they get raped or killed, I couldn’t take it. I have heart disease and am already sick and in bed.”
His wife, Usha Gomes, said, “I helplessly watched the crowd beat my older daughter, Rita, when she protested against them putting a wall on our land. Christ is our only hope now, the only one who can save us from this danger.”
She also said, “We voted for the Bangladesh Awami League in the last parliamentary elections with very high hopes that we will have peace and will be given security by their government, but now the political activists of the party are using their political identity to persecute us and steal our lands. The perpetrators are rich Muslims who are large in number; they want to evict us from our own land, as they did to our Christian neighbors, forcing them to sell their land and to leave for India. We are now fully cornered here in Bangladesh, and we do not have security of life.”
Catholic human rights activist Annie Halder said, “The persecution of minorities is growing nowadays. Recently, there was a Christian evangelist, Swopon Mondol, who was killed, and now there are attacks against Christian families, and there are many attacks on Hindus. The government should take immediate action to secure the rights of minorities.”