In September it was reported that a tiny and unknown group of Rohingya Christians have faced violence from some of the 750,000 Muslim Rohingyas who fled Myanmar as refugees.
A church leader told of an upsurge in violence and pleaded for prayers for the estimated ‘several hundreds’ of Rohingya Christian converts from Islam. Already belonging to what some have called the ‘most persecuted people on earth’, the small community of Rohingya believers are now being subjected to anti-Christian violence in the camps in Cox’s Bazaar district.
In May 2019, a group of 17 families (69 people) living next to each other in simple shacks, some with only mud walls and tarpaulin roofs, were violently attacked on at least three consecutive nights by a Muslim mob of several hundred men armed with knives, swords, iron rods, stones and catapults.
A Christian boy was stabbed in the back and needed hospital treatment. A film showed large stones flying over the heads of Christians, including young children, fleeing in a small open truck. The mob also looted possessions, including the equipment of a Christian barber, before destroying his small shop and forcing him to go to the mosque to reconvert to Islam.
The May attacks culminated with the threat that the Christians would be killed if they did not leave the camp. The Christians attempted to flee, only to be forced back to the camp by police and security guards. No camp security personnel attempted to protect the Christians and there was no investigation into the attacks.
The rise in violent persecution against Rohingya Christians follows calls by Rohingya Muslims in December 2018 for the Bangladeshi Government to expel Christians from the camps. One asked for Muslim leaders around the world to ‘chase them out of this place’.
The isolated community in the camps is cut off from the wider Christian community in Bangladesh.
Rohingya Christians were reported to be struggling to buy food and other necessities due to camp shopkeepers refusing to serve them. These shopkeepers have been under pressure from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA, formerly called Harakah al-Yaqin), an extremist group active in the camps. Christians are also often completely left out when international aid, such as rice and mosquito nets, is distributed by Muslims.
Barnabas Fund is working discreetly to get essential supplies including food, clothes and medication to Rohingya Christians. They are also seeking to repair homes that have been damaged or destroyed, either by violence or by the frequent heavy rains in Bangladesh.