Women religious attacked in Bangladesh

Religious sisters take part in Mass at the Basilica of St John Lateran for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ June 19 2014 Credit Daniel Ibez CNA CNA 6 19 14 Religious sisters pray during Mass, June 19, 2014. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Last week dozens of armed men broke into a convent in northern Bangladesh, beating a group of nuns at a small mission.

"The attack was massive and lasted about an hour and a half. The attackers brutally beat the nuns … the convent was seriously devastated," Bishop Sebastian Tudu of Dinajpur told the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, of the attack which took place at the Boldi Pukur mission in the early hours of July 7.

"Only when the police arrived did the attackers leave the mission," he reported.

The Boldi Pukur mission is located nearly 50 miles east of Dinajpur; its rectory, convent, and hospital were all objects of the attack carried out by between 50 and 60 men.

While Christians have before been attacked in the Muslim-majority nation, this is the first time that nuns have been targeted in particular.

"It's unprecedented because nuns are highly respected in Bangladesh," Bishop Tudu said.

The nuns are now in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, for medical treatment, the bishop said. He added that the rectory's door was broken down, and the mission's pastor was robbed and threatened.

"The attack is obviously a targeted and planned attempt at intimidation. Nuns and priests are being attacked because they stand up for the disadvantaged and minorities," stated Bishop Tudu.

"The most recent attack is clearly a targeted response to Catholics' commitment to the country's poorest people."

Christians constitute less than one percent of the Bangladesh's population, as do Buddhists. The population is 90 percent Muslim, and 8 percent Hindu.

According to Aid to the Church in Need, the attackers sought deeds to land, seeking to steal it from poor and uneducated parishioners. A similar attack occurred in 2011 at a town in southeastern Bangladesh which was home to Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists.

"The police are now investigating the case. They have promised to clear it up," the bishop reported.

He added that his diocese has seen several attacks on Christian villages in the past year.

"A seminary and the seminarians were also attacked. It was always said that the reasons for the attacks had to do with disputes over land and property."

Bishop Tudu lamented that the 45 priests and more than 100 women religious serving in his diocese are now living in fear of similar attacks.

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