Hundreds of Christian protestors rallied in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, last Sunday to protest the treatment of a Catholic woman reportedly raped by her Muslim employer and another man.
The 26-year-old victim is a teacher in the Diocese of Khulna in Bangladesh, a nation where 86 percent of the population is Muslim and most of the rest is Hindu.
On May 12, she traveled to a nearby town to take a required exam for teachers in the national school system, and was accompanied by the principal of the school where she worked, called Majibnagor Amrokanon High School.
The name of the victim has not been released.
Although the two spent the night in separate hotel rooms, at some point during the night, according to reports, the principal, named Shariful Islam, and another man forced their way into the teacher’s room and raped her.
After the rape, reports out of Bangladesh suggest, the principal threatened to post pictures and video of the rape on Facebook and other social media if the victim went to the police or talked to anyone.
Follwing the assault, the young woman was hospitalized in serious condition. A journalist at the hospital where she was admitted saw her and advised a local priest, Father Domenic Halder, of her injuries. Halder then contacted the police on her behalf.
Halder told Crux that the victim’s father had made a complaint against Islam and the other man involved.
“I personally and strongly want to condemn those men,” Halder said. “Now this case is under judgment. We are waiting for justice.”
Nirmal Rozario, general secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, a Christian activist group, told Asia News, “We have heard about the incident and ask the local administration for justice.”
“We want the attackers to be punished,” Rozario said.
Christians in Bangladesh frequently complain of harassment and persecution. In March, for instance, Muslim militants linked to ISIS took responsibility for the stabbing death of 68-year-old Hussein Ali Sarkar, a convert to Christianity, in a town north of Dhaka.
“We Christians are vulnerable in this country, as are other Muslim minorities,” Rozario said. “We can be attacked at any moment.”
Islam, the principal charged with the rape, has been arrested, but Halder didn’t seem to hold out much hope that the process would work swiftly.
“In this part of Bangladesh the work is very slow,” he said.
The Christian protest on Sunday was intended to insist that public authorities prosecute Islam and the other culprit, rather than fostering what critics describe as a frequent culture of impunity for anti-Christian violence.
According to Vatican statistics, there are just 344,000 Catholics in Bangladesh out of a national population of 156 million, representing just .2 percent of the national total. Historically, however, these so-called “Bengali Christians” have often been styled as a “model minority” for their high literacy rates and above-average socio-economic levels.