Church leader expresses solidarity with Bangladesh

Bangladeshis display portraits of their missing relatives during a prayer ceremony for the souls of the 1,127 people who died in the garment building structure collapse last month, in Savar, near Bangladesh, Tuesday 14 May 2013.(AP)

Messages of solidarity and concern have been sent to Bangladesh following attacks on religious minorities and the collapse of a garment factory which claimed over a thousand lives.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit spoke in a letter of his "deep sadness over the deaths and injuries of so many people who continue to suffer because of politics, religious persecution and lack of basic human rights and security in the workplace".

The letter was sent to WCC member churches and the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh.

He called for urgent steps to be taken to improve working conditions, especially for women, saying that safety provisions in many workplaces across the country were "not adequate to meet normal labour-law standards".

"Despite having drastically increased their presence in the labour force, Bangladeshi women still face disadvantages and discrimination in the workplace," he said.

He said current labour conditions "must be improved upon".

Dr Tveit recently visited the country as a gesture of solidarity. He said it had been disheartening to hear about the development of communal hatred in a country once known for its tolerance.

"The systematic violation of human rights is most unfortunate and needs to end," he said.