Bangladesh: Islamists step up persecution of Christians after rapid rise in conversions

People react during a protest in Kolkata, India against attacks on religious minorities in Bangladesh earlier this month.Reuters

Islamist terrorists are stepping up their persecution of Christians in Bangladesh after a rapid rise in converts.

The latest was at the start of July when more than 20 people were murdered in an Islamist terror attack on a restaurant in the diplomatic zone in Dhaka.

According to local pastors, this was just the latest in a series of attacks deliberately aimed by extremists at Christians and other minorities. 

A worker for Christian advocacy charity Open Doors told the Express:"Survivors of the attack said the killers made their hostages recite verses from the Koran. Those who could were spared, while those unable to were killed. This latest attack, however, is the first concerted attack on foreigners, marking a major escalation in a campaign by militants."

Even though Bangladesh is a secular country, others have been killed or attacked for their Christian faith.

More than 163 million people live in Bangladesh, where nine in ten are Muslim. There are fewer than 830,000 Christians and Islam is the state religion. 

The warnings come after new figures show numbers of Muslims converting to Christianity in Bangladesh are on the rise. The human rights organisation Christian Freedom International reports that there is a growing number of Muslims who have been pledging their lives to Christ. It is estimated that as many as 91,000 Muslims all across Bangladesh have converted to Christianity in just six years, in spite of knowing it could cost them their lives.

According to Open Doors, despite declaring war on radical groups, Bangladesh's government is known to give in to Islamic pressure. Open Doors says: "Christians remain at risk, particularly in rural areas where they face pressure from families and religious leaders. Violence has increased: a convert to Christianity was killed for her faith, the names of church leaders appeared on a list with death threats, and a pastor was stabbed. Bangladesh's constitution declares that Islam is the state religion, though it is a secular country that allows the practice of religious freedom."