Catching Our Eye
Attacks on Christians in Bangladesh escalate
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the 18 November attack in Bangladesh on Fr. Piero Arolari, the Italian Catholic priest who survived being shot by three men on motorcycles as he cycled to work, UCA News reports.
“Security detachments of soldiers of the caliphate in Bangladesh carried out some unique operations [including] … targeting the Italian crusader foreigner,” the jihadist group said in a statement, according to the US-based SITE intelligence group.
Almost 70 Christians have received death threats by text message from IS or local Islamic fundamentalist groups in Bangladesh in the last week, local sources, who preferred to stay anonymous, told World Watch Monitor. The message read: “Your time in this world has run out. You can now do or eat whatever you want and after five days we will murder you at anytime, anywhere. Through your blood we will save the Islamic world”.
The attack on Fr. Arolari was the latest in a series of attacks on foreign nationals in Bangladesh.
In September, Caesar Tavella, an Italian aid worker, was killed in Dhaka; Islamic State claimed responsibility. IS also claimed responsibility for the murder of Japanese businessman Kunio Hoshi, 66. The government denies that IS has a presence in the country.
A week after Tavella died, a local priest survived what appeared to be a pre-meditated attack at his home. A year ago, hundreds of extremist Islamists attacked a Christian school in Bangladesh, which welcomes children of all faiths, in response to locals who were outraged by rumours stating that the school was forcing Muslim children to convert to Christianity.
Meanwhile a Muslim mob has burned down the homes of four Catholic families after a long campaign of abuse against them.
“For more than a year, Muslim youths from a neighbouring village accused us of practicing witchcraft,” said Ramni Das, 57 who lost two houses in the attack on 5 November. The families escaped after neighbours pulled them from the burning bulidings.
Renovated church re-opens 30 miles from IS
The re-opening of an abandoned church in Mardin, SE Turkey, just 30 miles from Islamic State territory, is a symbol of “universal religious freedom”, worshippers were told at the renovated building's dedication service on 7 November.
Local politicians and leaders of all denominations were at the reopening ceremony “as a sign of democracy and coexistence”. Persecution and migration forced the church's closure 55 years ago.
The rundown building was transferred to a Protestant congregation by the Syriac church, one of the oldest branches of Christianity, which has churches in Mardin dating back to the fourth century.
Protestantism and Assyrian Orthodoxy had been bitter rivals in Mardin, but, as World Watch Monitor reported in April, the handover marked the first steps of reconciliation between the denominations.
The renovated church is one of the few legally recognised Protestant churches in Turkey. Protestants usually meet in homes or rented buildings.
Mardin Co-Mayor, Februniye Akyol - herself the first Christian mayor of a Turkish city – said: “While our historic churches are being bombed and destroyed across the border, a church … coming to life in Mardin after so many years of inactivity is a message for the whole world".
Iraqi conversion law under review
An Iraqi law forcing children from minority faiths to become Muslims may be one step closer to amendment after protests from Christian MPs and other minority leaders.
In October, four Christian members of the Iraqi parliament called for a change in the law to preserve the religion of dependent children whose fathers convert to Islam.
On 18 November, the Iraqi Council of Representatives passed a resolution requiring modifications to the National Card Law, approved on 27 October and including a paragraph forcing non-Muslim children to become Muslims if their father converts to Islam, or if their non-Muslim mother then marries a Muslim. Non-Muslim step-children of a Muslim father would also be forced to become Muslims.
The President of the Council asked non-Muslim parliamentarians to contribute to the rewriting of the law, which specifically states that "children shall follow the religion of the converted parent to Islam". Jibouri said the council will take the necessary steps to amend the law and work to ensure that all ethnic groups enjoy the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
The non-Muslim parliamentarians’ proposed amendment that "minors will keep their current religion until 18 years of age, then they have the right to choose their religion" was originally rejected, leading to its proponents boycotting further meetings.
Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, recently recommended that states must pay more attention to violations of the rights of children, particularly minorities and converts, in a report presented to the UN General Assembly on 22 October.