.- A man acting as a guard outside a Catholic church in Bangladesh was injured in a knife attack on Friday. Local authorities attribute it to a private feud, and not terrorism.
According to local reports, Gilbert Costa, 65, was guarding Saint Rita parish in the Chatmohar upazila of the Pabna district, about 55 miles southeast of Rajshahi, when he was attacked in the early hours of March 10 by several young men from his village wielding knives.
“He was hacked randomly by sharp knives and was left severely injured. He was shifted to a hospital where his condition is now stable,” local police chief Ahsan Habib told AFP.
Officials have ruled out a link to Islamic terrorism, and have said that the attack was motivated by “personal enmity.”
“Costa and his relatives have identified the attackers with whom they had personal feud in the village. We have found no extremist connection whatsoever,” Habib told AFP.
Three young men from Costa's village have been arrested in connection with the attack.
Christians have suffered numerous attacks in the country, where they make up approximately 0.2 percent of the population in the Muslim-majority nation.
While the country has a history of violence against Christians, violence has spiked in the wake of the rise of extreme Islamic terrorism. In November 2015, an Italian missionary priest working at a hospital in Bangladesh, was shot and critically injured an attack claimed by the Islamic State. In summer 2016, several attacks left dozens dead, including a Catholic man coming home from Sunday prayers in June and 28 people who died in a hostage situation in July.
Pope Francis recently met with families of the victims of the 2016 hostage scenario, most of whom were foreigners from Italy and Japan. During his visit with the families, he offered his prayers and encouraged forgiveness.
“It's easy to take the road from love that leads to hatred, while it is difficult to do the opposite: from bitterness and hatred to go towards love,” he said.
Despite the persecution, the Catholic population in Bangladesh is reportedly on the rise. In 2015, Pope Francis established a new diocese in the south-central region of the country, due to an increase of Catholics in the region.