Christianity boom in Bangladesh sparks concern among Muslims

Pastors and missionaries in Bangladesh say the Christian faith is seeing a tremendous growth in the world's fourth largest Islamic nation, sparking concern among the Muslim majority and also causing persecution to rise.

(REUTERS / Andrew Biraj)A boy waves a Bangladesh national flag as he chants a slogan before a mass funeral as the body of Rajib Haider, an architect and blogger who was a key figure in organising demonstrations, arrives at Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka February 16, 2013.

Recently, Christian Freedom International president Jim Jacobson traveled to Bangladesh to interview indigenous Christian pastors, missionaries, evangelists and converts. He found out that Muslim conversion --- especially in the rural areas --- is a major contributing factor to the boom of Christianity in the Muslim-majority nation, TRU News relays.

Bangladesh's official census shows that 89.1 percent of the country's 156 million people is Muslim, 10 percent is Hindi, while Christians make up less than 1 percent of the population. However, the official reports only count the Christians born into the faith who go to state-sanctioned churches. Those who have converted are left out from the census.

Converts estimate that Christians now comprise at least 10 percent of the country's population, and this figure is reportedly going up each day. Jacobson learned that the growth of the Christian faith in Bangladesh has sparked concern among the Muslims in the country, which in turn has given birth to a rise in the number of incidents of persecution, particularly among underground believers.

"In the last 12 months, more than 20,000 Muslims have converted to Christianity," Pastor Khaleque, a former Muslim who is now a Christian pastor, told CFI in the interview. "More than 20,000 have converted and this is becoming a real problem for the Muslims."

Just recently, The Financial Express ran a story on a Christian who was attacked by a group of young people while guarding a Catholic church at Mathurapur, Pabna district. Martin Dominic Rozario, a member of the Saint Rita Church's management committee, said the assailants approached Gilbert Costa at around 4 a.m. and attempted to get the church keys from him. When he refused to hand them over, they hacked him using sharp weapons.

Costa was brought to Pabna Sadar Hospital for treatment. He had injuries on his head and extremities. Three suspects were later detained in connection with the incident. While police suspect that a family dispute was the motive for the crime, the publication notes that similar attacks targeting religious minorities, secular writers, rights activists and foreigners have been carried out in the last two years.