Washington, D.C. (BWA) — Christians in the Muslim-majority country of Bangladesh are concerned about general elections in the South Asian country set for Dec. 18 and sub-district elections on Dec. 24 and 28.
The election dates were announced in mid-October in the nation, which is under emergency rule by a caretaker government, backed by the Joint Armed Forces.
“The Christian community of Bangladesh wrote a letter to the Chief Advisor of the caretaker government, and the Chief Election Commissioner of the Bangladesh Election Commission to reschedule the sub-district election date of 24 December,” Dennis Dilip Datta informed the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Datta is the recipient of the 2008 BWA Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.
Christians in Bangladesh, Datta said, are concerned about possible post-election violence during the important Christmas season, which is observed by Christians. “From our experiences there is always post-election violence on the minority communities and we are apprehending that this situation will repeat again.”
Datta, who is founding general secretary and current president of the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh, claimed that “all major political parties of Bangladesh” are opposed to “election under emergency rule.” There are fears that emergency rule, which restricts certain civil liberties and political activities, will prevent the holding of fair and free elections.
Even though Christians are less than one percent of the 150 million people in Bangladesh, Christianity, including Baptists, has a significant presence among tribal groups mostly in the hilly, rural regions of the country. Christians sometimes face attacks and discrimination. In April, at least one church and more than 130 houses occupied mainly by Christians were burned in the Chittagong Hills. Several persons were injured.
An estimated 90 percent of Bangladesh is Muslim with a Christian population of 0.3 percent. Approximately 42,000 baptized believers in almost 1,000 churches are Baptist.