Catholic leaders in Bangladesh have joined the chorus of condemnation for the April 25 murders of Xulhaz Mannan, who worked for the U.S. Agency of International Development, and his partner Tonoy Majumder, both prominent members of the country’s embattled LGBT community.
Mannan and Tonoy were killed by militants affiliated with Ansar Al Islam. Mannan founded and edited Roopbaan, the nation’s first and only LGBT magazine, and the two were hacked to death by machetes.
Although “the Catholic Church does not approve the way of the LGBT life, it recognizes the rights of all human persons,” said Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, president of the Bangladeshi bishops’ Commission for Justice and Peace.
“Human persons cannot be killed the way the terrorists did,” Rozario said. “We condemn those who did it.”
Rozario said that the brutal murders must “be considered a serious failure of the government, a serious moral failure too.”
“The police should act to save the people of the country without religious or political biases,” the bishop said.
Rozario told the Union of Asian Catholic News (UCAN) that the Church “mourns the deaths” of the LGBT activists.
“If homicides like this pass in silence, then it’s the government more than anyone else who loses,” he said.
Rosaline Costa, a Catholic who is Executive Director of Hotline Human Rights Trust Bangladesh, echoed the point.
“God has given us freedom of choice, and nobody is allowed to persecute people for their sexual orientation because of so-called traditional values based on conservative religious norms,” she told UCAN. “A truly democratic society can’t accept abuse in the name of religion.”
“The government must ensure that the discrimination of LGBT people ends in this country even though the so-called protectors of Islam might not like it,” Costa said.
According to UCAN, Costa had known Xulhaz for 10 years.
“He was a lovely, helpful, and serene young man,” she said. “Is there security for anyone today?” she asked. “I cannot speak what I believe in or want to say, or move where I want to go, or express what I feel?”
“Freedom, which I got from God as an inalienable gift at birth, is suppressed by the government and underground Islamist terrorists,” Costa said. “For the sake of power, our politicians will do anything to undermine the rights of the people.”