Christian Rohingya attacked and abducted in Bangladesh

Rohingya refugee children play at no man's land at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh January 12, 2018.Reuters

Christians have been attacked in a refugee camp in Bangladesh set up for thousands of Rohingya forced to flee from Myanmar.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the authorities to ensure the safety of all refugees living in the Cox's Bazar camp after at least 22 Rohingya Christian families were attacked on January 27, and a Christian pastor and his 14-year-old daughter were abducted. 

In other acts of violence, homes, a church and Christian school inside the camp were vandalised, and homes were looted. 

The families targeted in the attack have since been relocated to a United Nations transit centre where they have filed a police case against 59 alleged assailants, HRW reports.

The Benar News Agency and Radio Free Asia both report that camp residents believe that the attackers are linked to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an ethnic Rohingya armed group.

An ARSA representative denied the group's involvement and condemned the attacks on Christians, saying that such acts of violence would hinder the group's fight for Rohingya rights.

Roshida, wife of the missing pastor, fears that her husband has been killed and their daughter forced to convert to Islam. 

"No one can give me any clear information, but my relatives told me that my daughter has been forced to convert to Islam and marry," she said, according to HRW.

The refugee camps in Myanmar are home to around 700,000 Rohingya, most of them Muslim.  Christians account for only around 1,500 of the Rohingya resident in the camps. 

One Christian resident said that camp officials "try to avoid our queries", while another said that Christians should "go to the moon" if they want to be safe. 

HRW said: "The Bangladesh authorities should urgently locate Taher and his daughter and bring those responsible to justice. The government should also act immediately to protect all vulnerable groups in the country's refugee camps, including religious minorities like Rohingya Christians." 

The report echoes concerns raised by Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, who recently said that Rohingya Christians are "in a most difficult position."

"They told me they were persecuted due to their religion by the Myanmar Government while they lived in Rakhine, and now they face hostility and violence from a small number of other camp residents. This worries me," Lee said.