A baptism shared on social media triggered a violent mob attack on Christians in northern Bangladesh in which ten people were seriously injured. Dozens of Christian families fled their village. Thanks to the intervention of CSI’s partner, they have now returned home. But the situation remains tense. CSI is providing legal support and material aid.
In February 2023, the CSI project manager visited the village of Gobta together with local partner William Samadder. Gobta is home to about 50 Christian families who have converted from Islam in the last ten years. Despite the deceptive calm, the tension was palpable.
Pastor Siraj-ul-Haq explained that the tensions began with a baptism in January 2023. “During a prayer meeting in our house, we baptized Manik’s mother, who had previously accepted Jesus Christ as her savior. Muslim villagers recorded the whole baptism on their cell phones and immediately posted it on social media.”
Manik says that the hatred that the baptism video sparked among radical Muslims was mainly directed at his family. “Within an hour, more than 100 angry Muslims attacked our house. They threw stones at us and beat us with sticks,” he recounts.
The village council managed to de-escalate the situation, Manik said. “But the next morning, the Muslim mob again stormed our house and beat us up.” Other houses inhabited by Christians, such as that of Siraj, were also attacked.
The attacks were fueled by the local mosque committee, which passed a resolution that all Christians must leave Gobta after the baptism video went viral on social media.
And since the police did nothing, the 50 Christian families in Gobta had no choice but to flee. Says Manik, “We fled to the rice fields. But the mob caught up with us and beat us up again. My mother was one of the victims.” She is one of the ten Christians who had to be hospitalized with serious injuries.
The police, who were alerted, initially refused to initiate proceedings, saying it was not a religious matter. Only after CSI partner William Samaddar became involved shortly afterwards did the police take up the case.
Thanks to Samaddar’s intervention, all the Christian families have now returned home. But the situation is still very difficult for them. Manik says: “Our Muslim neighbors don’t talk to us. They also try to prevent us from going out on the streets. They don’t sell us anything in their stores anymore.”
In addition, Christians now have to travel long distances to work as day laborers. “Here in Gobta, no one gives work to a Christian anymore. Some Christians try to get by on transporting goods because the Muslims in the village refuse to travel in their rickshaws,” Manik explains.
The spread of Manik’s mother’s baptism on social media has also put religious tolerance to the test on the internet. Some 30,000 people have watched the video, posting countless hate comments against Christians. “The radical Muslim Facebook group Bashar-Bin-Hayat-Ali has declared war against us,” Manik reports.
Through partner William Samadder, CSI is offering legal assistance to the Christian community of Gobta so they can take the main perpetrators of the attack to court. CSI is also covering the treatment costs of the injured Christians and providing food aid. In addition, emergency shelter is being provided for those Christians who can no longer live in their homes.
Further support is provided by the pastors’ network, which was established at Samadder’s initiative. Pastor Siraj-Ul-Haq comments: “We are very grateful for this. Without the pastors’ network, we would not survive as Christians in Gobta. It is encouraging that we can help each other as pastors. God is our Savior, but networking with each other helps and strengthens us.”
Manik’s mother also remains strong in her Christian faith. It is taking her a long time to recover from the injuries she sustained. “Nevertheless, she is very grateful to have received baptism,” Manik says.