Islamic Violence Spurs Warning in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh, SEPT. 19, 2005 ( The bishop of the Dinajpur Diocese fears that a series of 434 bomb blasts in August is a sign that Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups are on the upswing.

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Episodes of physical violence against Christians in this predominantly Muslim country have been sporadic in recent years.

But Bishop Moses Costa said Islamic extremists have launched an anti-Western campaign that could affect Christians, who already face discrimination in daily life. The 54-year-old prelate urged laity and clergy to avoid all provocation, according to the Fides news agency.

Recently eight Christian leaders sent an open letter to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia calling on the government to guarantee protection for the people, especially religious minorities.

Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes of Dhaka, the secretary-general of the Catholic bishops’ conference, was among the authors of the letter.

Last month’s 434 bombings occurred in 63 districts. After the arrest of 160 suspects, the government said that two Muslim leaders — Abdur Rahman, of the group Jamayetul Mujaheddin; and Banghla Bai, of Jagrata Muslim Janata — are being sought in connection with the explosions.

About 10% of Bangladesh’s 140 million people are Christian, including 280,000 Catholics.

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