BANGLADESH: PASTOR’S 13-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER GANG-RAPED
Thursday May 08, 2008
Area Muslims bent on driving Christian expansion from northern part of country.
DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 8 (Compass Direct News) – Muslim villagers in Mymensingh district eager to rid the area of the Christian work of a local pastor have gang-raped his 13-year-old daughter, the girl’s father said.
Pastor Motilal Das of United Bethany Church said that at around 3 a.m. on Friday (May 2) the villagers sexually assaulted his daughter, Elina Das, and left her unconscious in front of his house in an attempt to drive him and his Christian ministry out of Laksmipur village in Fulbaria sub-district, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital.
Local residents have long been angry with him for his ministry and evangelism, he said, and he has received death threats.
“I did not pay attention to any of the threats or hindrances – I continued evangelical and pastoral activities with prayer,” Das told Compass. “They targeted me to evict from this area to stop the Christian activities. When nothing stopped me, then they wanted to leave me scarred for life, so that I would be upset and not be able to show my face to the society for shame, and therefore I would leave the village.”
Das, who became the first Christian in the area in 1986 and has been key in an increase to more than 250 Christians and the emergence of 12 churches, said the brutal attack was pre-planned and calculated to stop further expansion of Christianity in northern Bangladesh.
“Otherwise, why would they rape such a minor girl?” he said.
Elina Das is the only Christian student at her school, he said. “Always local boys used to tease her on her way to school,” he said, “and used to tell her filthy words against Christianity and western culture.”
Five villagers attacked her when she went from her thatched house to an outdoor latrine, said investigating officer Sanwar Hossen of Fulbaria police station.
“Five people lying in ambush in the pitch-dark near the toilet snatched her by gagging her mouth with her body scarf [and taking her] to a nearby tea stall, 400 meters from the house, where they gang-raped her,” Hossen said.
Besides the religious opposition of some residents, the officer said villagers had no personal or commercial conflicts with the Das family that could serve as a motive for the assault.
“There was no family vendetta or personal clash or enmity of Motilal with the local people for which his daughter would be raped,” Hossen said. “There was even no land dispute between him and the neighbors, because he does not have any land.”
Family members found Elina Das lying unconscious in front of the house that morning.
“When I woke up in the early morning, I saw my daughter lying unconscious in front of my house,” Das said. “ A few hours after the gang rape, they had left her in front of my house.”
Das said he suspected friends of the rapists and perhaps some of the rapists themselves observed them as they went to the police station to file charges, as they later threatened to harm them if they did not withdraw the case, he said.
“I have received death threats against my entire family if I do not withdraw the case,” Das told Compass. “We, all the family members, were afraid and took shelter in the same police station, where my wife, daughter, son and I stayed for two days and one night.”
Elina Das has identified two of the rapists and could identify the others if she saw them or their pictures, said Das. Police have arrested Shebul Miah, 22. The girl identified another suspect, 32-year-old Dulal Miah, alias Dulu, who remains at large.
Fearful of his life if he returned to his home, Das relocated to the home of a friend in Dhaka on Saturday (May 3).
When Das initially went to police to file charges, he said, police were reluctant to register the case.
“Police told me that it was a false case,” Das said. “They also said that it was a fabricated drama. Police spoke with my daughter in filthy language and showed prurient interest in the details of the incident in front of us rather than filing the case quickly.”
Area Assembly of God (AG) pastor Sento Mir requested that the local denominational chairman encourage police to file charges. Following a phone call from him on Friday (May 2), police immediately agreed to investigate the incident and filed a rape case in the afternoon.
Area Muslims expressed their outrage at the brutal incident, and they are afraid that the assailants are backed by powerful people, Das said.
“We know Motilal Das as a good man in the locality, though he is a Christian,” said a Muslim neighbor, 42-year-old Ruhul Amin, who owns a tea stall in the nearby area. “He had not any personal clash or enmity with others in the village.”
Mir, the AG pastor, said Das will not be able to return to the area unless justice is served.
“If the arrested rapist is not judged properly and is released from jail without any judgment, Motilal Das cannot live in this area,” Mir said. “He along with his family members should leave the village, otherwise they will be in serious trouble.”
Likewise, he added, if the identified absconding rapist is not caught and convicted, the family will no longer be able to live in the area.
Bangladesh on ‘Watch List’
The day of the rape, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) announced annual recommendations for countries to be designated “Countries of Particular Concern,” but it did not include Bangladesh.
Rather, the commission put Bangladesh on its “Watch List” due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government. Other countries on the Watch List are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria.
According to USCIRF, Islamist radicalism and violence, the threat of serious violence and continued discrimination against members of religious minority communities remain significant concerns in Bangladesh.