Two of the three suspected Muslim extremists who tried to cut the throat of a pastor in northwestern Bangladesh last week met with him in mid-September and feigned interest in converting, the church leader told Morning Star News.
Luke Sarker, the 52-year-old pastor of Faith Bible Church in Ishwardi, Pabna District, received hospital treatment for the minor neck wound he sustained in the assault on Monday (Oct. 5). He said an unknown person had called him on Sept. 17 who expressed interested in converting to Christianity.
"I said, 'I cannot convert you, but you can come to me to know about Christianity,'" he said.
The following day, two people came to his house by motorcycle, and he discussed Jesus with them. His wife offered them tea. After telling them how and why Jesus came into the world, and that Jesus was the Savior of mankind, he read them some verses from the Gospel of Matthew, among several other passages from the Bible.
"They said they liked whatever I shared with them," he said. "When they left my home, they said they would like to come again to my house. I appreciated and welcomed their forthcoming visit, because telling about Jesus is my work."
On Monday (Oct. 5) three people came to his house on the same motorcycle without any prior notice at about 8 a.m., and the two who had visited previously asked if he remembered them.
"I said I could remember and greeted them and took them inside my room," he said. "I spent around half an hour with them discussing about Christianity. Suddenly, one of them grabbed my neck just under the chin. I tried to shout but could not. I was groaning and tried to bite the fingers of the grabber. The other two persons tried to slit my throat with a knife."
His son and daughter rushed in to fend off the assailants, and his wife also came in shouting for help. A neighbor also arrived, and the attackers fled, he said.
Pastor Sarker, originally from Satkhira District in southwestern Bangladesh, has been working as a pastor at the church mission for five years.
Pabna District Police Chief Alamgir Kabir told Morning Star News that a case for attempted murder had been filed and one person arrested. The person detained in connection with the attack, 28-year-old Obaidul Islam, is reportedly a member of the Islami Chhatra Shibir, student wing of violent Islamist political party Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami.
"We have arrested one person so far, and he will be produced in court next week," Kabir said.
Following the Sept. 28 killing in Dhaka of an aid worker of a Christian-backed organization and the assassination of a Japanese businessmen on Oct. 2 in Rangpur - with the Islamic State allegedly claiming responsibility for both attacks - the government should not be dismissive of the attempted slaughter of Pastor Sarker, a Christian leader said.
"The attack on a Christian at this time could be a ploy to draw the attention of foreign countries following the killing of two foreign nationals in Bangladesh," said Nirmol Rozario, secretary general of Bangladesh Christian Association. "Christians are in a vulnerable position now in Bangladesh. The government should not take the incident lightly. They should ensure more protections to Christian communities so that no such incident takes place anymore."
In addition, Christians in Kotalipara, Gopalganj District recently faced an attempt to seize their church land. Area Hindus on Aug. 26 tried to forcibly take the land in order to run a street through it, sources said. Local Christians who tried to stop them were badly beaten.
Local officials stopped the violence, but influential Hindus have continued to try to seize the land and have threatened to bomb the church building and kill the Christians, sources said.
Sunni Muslims make up 90 percent of Bangladesh's population, according to the 2011 census, with Hindu making up 9.5 percent of the total population, which the U.S. government estimates at 163.7 million people. The remainder of the population is Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) and Theravada-Hinayana Buddhist. There are also small numbers of Shia Muslims, Bahais, animists and Ahmadiyya Muslims.