Accused of witchcraft, Christians in Bangladesh narrowly escaped being burned alive

Mostaque Chowdhury/ Wikimedia Commons

Four Christian families narrowly escaped being burned alive in an arson attack by a group of Muslim extremists who accused them of witchcraft, according to UCA news.

"They wanted to kill us by burning us alive, but we managed to escape. We have lost everything," said Ramni Das, a cane worker who loast two houses in the attack. With the help of neighbours, the families managed to escape the burning buildings.

The sectarian attack on 5 November was escalation of long term abuse against them in Kamarpara, in Panchangarh district.

"For more than a year, Muslim youths from a neighbouring village accused us of practising witchcraft and told us to leave the village. They abused us in public and threw bricks at our houses," said Das.

Police are yet to make any arrests, despite Das having reported it to them. They claim to be investigating the attack.

"The suspects ... have fled the area. We are helping to mediate for compensation," said Dinabandhu Nath, a local police officer.

Abul Hossain, chairman of a local government body, the union council, shared his shock over the attacks.

"Personally, I know the victims to be good people. For the past year, I have tried to calm the situation and have publically said the witchcraft accusations were false, but I didn't think things would reach such an extreme," said Hossain.

"We are trying to resolve the matter without the need of a court case, so that Hindus, Muslims and Christians can live peacefully in the future."

Ainul Islam, the uncle of one of the accused, has said his nephew is innocent.

"I know some youths including my nephew have had problems with Christians, but I don't think they were behind the arson attack," he said.

There are around 300 Catholics in Karmapara who are historically from the Hindu Ksatriya (warrior) caste. They converted decades ago and are often exploited by Muslims in the area due to their poor socio-economic status.

The local church is working with the families, providing aid and seeking legal aid.

"We are also working with local leaders to seek legal action against the attackers," said Father Prodip Marnadi, assistant parish priest at the Fatima Rani Catholic Church.