Elderly Woman Burned to Death for Leaving Islam

Christian villagers in a Muslim-majority area of Bangladesh on Tuesday, February 5, mourned the death of a 70-year-old woman who died from burns she suffered when a mob reportedly set her home ablaze as a punishment for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Rahima Beoa, who was planning to be baptized on February 13 in Cinatuly village in Rangpur district, 248 kilometers (154 miles) northwest of the capital Dhaka, suffered burns on at least 70 percent of her body, local villagers said. Suspected Muslim extremists set their home, made from bamboo and wood, ablaze on January 7, while she and her 9-year-old grand child were sleeping, reported Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency.

The pastor of the local evangelical Isha-e-Jamat (Jesus’ Church) Bangladesh denomination, Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, reportedly said that the mob was also upset that Beoa’s daughter and son-in-law, 40-year-old Ashraful Islam, converted to Christianity and about their involvement in evangelistic efforts.

A lack of access to adequate medical care was believed to have contributed to Beoa’s death on Friday, February 1. No relatives or neighbors allegedly came to put out the fire and the family reportedly also lost two head of cattle in one corner of the structure.

ATTACKERS “FORGIVEN”

Yet, the Rangpur Regional Supervisor of the local Isha-e-Jamat Bangladesh denomination, Khaled Mintu, said in published remarks that family members had forgiven those who murdered her. “Before her burial, the family members forgave those who set fire in the house and prayed to God that this kind of incident not occur anymore in this country,” Mintu was quoted as saying by Compass Direct News. “They also prayed for a situation where Muslims and Christians can practice their own religion side by side peacefully.”

This was not the first incident in the area. In 2006, Mintu said, over 7,000 Muslims vandalized houses of Christians. There are some 50 Christian families of mostly Muslim upbringing within just over three kilometers (two miles), including 18 families in the immediate area of Beoa’s home, according to local estimates.

In Bangladesh, Christians make up less than one percent of the country’s predominantly Muslim population of 150-million people. The case comes amid concerns within the human rights community about what they say are increased attacks against Christians in Bangladesh

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