"The Christian community is afraid of another attack anywhere in Bangladesh as much as all the citizens of Bangladesh are feeling insecurity and uncertainty right now," Dennis D. Datta, general secretary of the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh (NCFB) told Christianity Today. "In the capital city and country side, [Christians] have protested the heinous acts through organizing processions, rallies, human chains, public meetings and prayers throughout Bangladesh."
The bombing of the Jalilpar Catholic Missionary Church in the village of Baniarchar—along with the 22 deaths at a Narayanganj political rally on June 16—has pushed the death toll from bombings in Bangladesh to at least 80 in the last two years, according to VOA News.
On June 11, The Tribune of Chandigarh reported that the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) could connect five of the bomb blasts and 44 deaths to the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, an underground Islamic organization.
Authorities, according to the article, had arrested a teacher for planning the Baniarchar bomb attack. He is allegedly a member of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. Two local Christian youth are also suspected to have aided in the church blast.
The Tribune reported that four other teachers of the same madrasa (school) in Dhaka were arrested for involvement in Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami bombings. Two have reportedly confessed.
The DMP is still searching for the secretary-general of the radical organization who allegedly planned all the attacks as a show of force to the Awami League, which has a moderately socialist ideology. Baniarchar is in the home district (Gopalganj) of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, according to The Times of India.
Datta said he believes the attack was meant to grab the attention of both Christians and Hindus. According to The Times of India, Gopalganj has a sizable Christian majority—which is very rare. According to Operation World, Muslims account for 87 percent of Bangladesh's population. Christians make up less than one percent.
Datta said Christians and Hindus make up 95 percent of the area's population. "With one action, [radicals] could alert both communities," he said.
Beginning on June 1, Datta said, the NCFB had participated in a South-Asian Conference on Fundamentalism and Communism, where the theme was "Unite to Resist Fundamentalism and Communism."
"The next day after the conference, the fundamentalists selected the church as their target to expose that they exist and are powerful," Datta told Christianity Today. "They chose the church for getting big publicity locally and internationally—and they got it."
Datta told Christianity Today that confusion and uncertainty ran rampant following the blast. Many in Bangladesh speculated on those responsible for the bombing since no arrests were made until almost a week later.
Ecumenical News International reported that some were claiming that a parish dispute led to the violence, but Datta dismisses the story."It is unthinkable that divided Christians would do such a heinous act as killing worshiping people inside the church," he said.
Others have accused rightists upset because of Hindu conversions to Christianity. Datta said this theory is absurd because no noticeable conversion has happened in the last 15 years in the region.
The blast stirred protests, rallies, and condemnations from several church and political organizations.
The Independent reported that the Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA) named June 3 as "Mourning and Hatred Day." It will be a day marked with mass prayers and processions each year. The group also issued a nine-point resolution demanding a judicial probe.
According to the paper, leaders of the Church of Christ demanded special security for Bangladesh's Christian community. Meanwhile, hundreds of Christians and Muslims responded to the attack with a June 7 protest march through the capital.
Datta said Christians are afraid for their safety in other areas of Bangladesh as well. Approximately 90 miles from Baniarchar, 50 Protestant families have been threatened with eviction from their homes by Islamic fundamentalists.
"We have 30 million unemployed youth in Bangladesh," Datta said. "These youth have become easy prey for the fundamentalists. Some of them go abroad in the Middle East and get connected with Islamic fundamentalists who believe in terrorism and violence. When they return home, they are supported financially to do various terrorist activities."
Copyright © 2001 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
'The pineapple-like bomb was made in Chile,' according to The Daily Star.
The Bangladesh Christian Association will observe Mourning and Hatred Day every year on June 3, according to The Independent.
The Daily Star reports on the rumored reasons behind the church blast.
A Daily Star editorial calls the bombing a deliberate ploy to disrupt religious equanimity.
The attack not only killed ten, says an Independent editorial, but man's entire moral and ethical heritage and values have been subverted.
For more articles, see Yahoo's full coverage area on Bangladesh.
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