This topic came to me via a few different people so I decided to post despite the fact that I am currently laid up by the flu to express that I have some trepidation about how this story is being framed. First off all, I am by no means saying that Buddhists are not capable of such a hideous act nor advocating those acts. Like any other religion (or non-religion for you nit-pickers), Buddhism can be used to perpetuate violence.
However, in an area that is seemingly as much of a political hotbed as Bangladesh, I think we are looking at a politically motivated event rather than a religious one. I am also concerned that this is only being reported through primarily Christian outlets such as the “Persecution Times” which just rehashed the report from Compass Direct News (which originally reported it).
The forced Buddhist “baptism” seems just as ridiculous. The immediate slanting of this as a religious persecution seems off base when the break down of religions is as follows: 90% Muslim, 9% Hindu and 1% Others (to include Christians, Buddhists and probably Scientologists).
The reported antagonists the UPDF…
The United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF) is a political party based in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Founded on 26 December 1998 at the end of a Preparatory Conference held in Dhaka, the UPDF is a manifestation of the strong and serious reservations against the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 2 December 1997. The Accord failed to address fundamental demands of the Jumma people. UPDF was formed with a pledge to fight for the right of self-determination of the indigenous Jumma peoples through the establishment of FULL AUTONOMY. The UPDF firmly believes in the principles of democracy, fraternity and equality, and above all it seeks to establish a society free from all forms of oppression and exploitation. The principles of equality of nations, equality of both sexes and non-communal and democratic ideals constitute the basis of all activities of the Party.
Seem to be more concerned with the affairs of the indigenous peoples of the area (more on their plight here with an official report here) but I do have an inherit distrust of anything with “Front” in the name.
However I am not an expert in these affairs so I leave it to you to take the report as you will. If you have additional information or reports please feel free to leave in comments.
Three tribal Christians are being held captive by Buddhist members of an armed rebel group and their sympathizers in a pagoda in southeastern Bangladesh after being severely beaten in an attempt to force them to return to Buddhism, according to Christian sources.
Pastor Shushil Jibon Talukder, 55; Bimol Kanti Chakma, 50; and Laksmi Bilas Chakma, 40, of Maddha Lemuchari Baptist Church in Lemuchari village, in Mohalchari sub-district of the mountainous Khagrachari district, have been held captive since April 16.
As punishment for having left the Buddhist religion, they are to be kept in the pagoda for 15 to 20 days, the sources said.
Local Buddhists are considered powerful since they have ties with the United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF), an armed group in the hill districts.
According to the sources, after taking the Christians captive on April 16, the next day the armed Buddhist extremists forced other Christians of Maddha Lemuchari Bapsist Church to destroy their church building by their own hands after the extremists burned all blankets, Bibles, and songs books in the church building.
The sources reported that two UPDF members went to Pastor Talukder’s house at on April 16 at 7 a.m. telling him to go to a Buddhist community leader’s house in a nearby village. Also, the Buddhist leader told all members of the Baptist church to come to his house, and about 15 Christians did so.
The Buddhists, after a short argument, chose the pastor and the two other Christians and began beating them, leaving the pastor seriously injured. Then they took them to a nearby pagoda for Buddhist baptism, shaved their heads and dressed them in saffron robes as part of a conversion ritual.
Accoring to the sources, Pastor Tulukder was tortured nearly to death.
One source said, “The pastor was beaten so seriously that he could not walk to the nearby pagoda. Buddhist people took him on a wooden stretcher, which is used for carrying a dead body for burial or cremation.”
Pastor Talukder was treated in the pagoda with intravenous, hypodermic injections that saved his life, the source said.
It was said that the Buddhist extremists were forcing other Christians to undergo Buddhist baptism in the pagoda and to ’embrace’ Buddhism.
Regional Sub-district Chairman Sona Ratan Chakma said that the “three renegade Buddhists” are being kept in the pagoda for religious indoctrination
“They became Christian, and they were breaking the rules and customs of the Buddhist society, so elders of the society were angry with them,” Chakma said. “That is why they were sent to a pagoda for 15 to 20 days for their spiritual enlightenment, so that they can come back to their previous place [Buddhism].”
Chakma said the Christians have not been tortured but given punishment proportionate to the gravity of their “social deviation.”