Catholic Officials Condemn LGBT Murders in Bangladesh, Call for Justice


Xulhaz Mannan, left, and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy

Catholic officials in Bangladesh have condemned the brutal murders of two LGBT advocates, criticizing too the discrimination that sexual and gender diverse communities face in a nation which still criminalizes homosexuality.

Four days ago, Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were killed by militants affiliated with Ansar Al Islam. Mannan founded and edited Roopbaan, the nation’s first and only LGBT magazine, and worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Tonoy was an actor who advocated for gay rights.  Both were hacked to death by machete

Mannan and Tonoy’s murders add to a spree of targeted killings by militants against liberal figures and intellectuals. Al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates are seeking to grow in the majority Muslim nation, and their campaign includes targeting LGBT advocates.

The brutality of these murders by machete, coupled with the victims’ gay identities, has propelled the story into the international spotlight. Two Catholic officials in Bangladesh have reacted forcefully against the murders.

Fr. Albert Thomas Rozario, head of the Archdiocese of Dhaka’s Justice and Peace Commission and a Supreme Court lawyer, told UCA News that justice must be ensured for the two gay men murdered:

” ‘The church always supports the demands of LGBT people for equal rights and opportunities as ordinary citizens. . .We call on the authorities to ensure justice is meted out for the killings, and also to take steps to end discrimination against this community.’ “

Rosaline Costa, a Catholic who is Executive Director of Hotline Human Rights Trust Bangladesh, said the government must do more than just investigate these killings:

” ‘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. A truly democratic society can’t accept abuse in the name of religion. . .

” ‘A proper probe and justice for the killings won’t do much protect the community. 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.’ “

The situation for LGBT people in Bangladesh is highly oppressive. Being gay is criminalized with sanctions including life imprisonment. While the law criminalizing homosexuality is a leftover from British penal laws, strong current prejudices lead to cultural disapproval and discrimination. Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim nation, is highly religious, though there are only about 300,000 Catholics or 0.2% of the population. An anonymous advocate with the gay rights group Boys of Bangladesh told UCA News that being LGBT “can result in the denial of every opportunity and rights” and that they are considered “dreadful sinners.”

The deep tragedy of these murders is shining light on the suffering of Bangladesh’s LGBT communities, both in country and abroad. Fr. Rozario and Rosaline Costa countered the idea that religious belief entails LGBT condemnation, and they rejected violence in the name of religion. They acted because of their Catholic faith, not in spite of it, to not only seek justice for Mannan and Tonoy but to demand government action against anti-LGBT discrimination and violence. In this way, where fundamentalist religion and anti-LGBT hate had culminated in the brutality of these murders, Catholics found a way to mediate God’s love and cry out for God’s justice.

But the church’s response must move beyond reactive calls for justice when LGBT people are attack to a proactive solidarity which seeks protections before tragedy occurs. Words from Pope Francis condemning LGBT criminalization would go a long way towards this goal, but he has remained silent. Thankfully, clergy like Fr,. Rozario and lay people like Rosaline Costa are not waiting, but immediately standing with marginalized communities to demand justice and fair treatment.

If Pope Francis would condemn criminalization against LGBTQI people, he would clarify a sometimes ambivalent Catholic stance regarding violence against sexual and gender minorities. Catholics across the world have asked Francis to send a clear message through the #PopeSpeakOut campaign – and you can add your voice by clicking here and learning about a variety of ways that you can contact the pontiff!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. Judith S. Jordan
    Judith S. Jordan says:

    The institutional Catholic Church and many of its clergy cannot continue to make the comments they do about the LGBT community and then be surprised by the violence that follows.

    • Kathleen
      Kathleen says:

      If this Catholic Church is unable to position itself as a bright light in the world for everyone, the darkness not only remains, but spreads. Hateful people and their hateful actions are like cancers that spread wildly from one area of the body to the other if left untreated. Where is Pope Francis? and why isn’t this crime against humanity in the news?

  2. ermadurk
    ermadurk says:

    I am so grateful to Bondings 2.0, for keeping me informed about the realities that GLBT persons are facing throughout the world, and what, if anything, the Church is able to do to improve understanding and secure Justice for those being persecuted. Stories like this one from Bangladesh should motivate us to do all we can to educate for understanding, and promote Justice for GLBT persons here in the US, so that no one in our Country will voice approval if anyone is “hacked to death with machetes” for being Gay.

  3. James Sheya
    James Sheya says:

    In one of the paragraphs, Father Rosario indicates that gayness is a choice which, unfortunately, most of the clergy in the Catholic church believe it to be. This, in fact, is not true because sexual orientation is determined at birth. It is a difficult life when a person realizes he/she is gay because of the ostracism and homophobia connected to an attraction to members of the same sex. Pope Francis is also very disappointing for not taking a stand and voicing strong opposition to the killing of so many gay person’s in places like Bangladesh.

  4. costarosieyahoocom
    costarosieyahoocom says:

    The two persons killed in Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 25, 2016 is highly condemnable and punishable crime. As a human rights activist, I respect people with his/her good qualities, his/her own freedom of choice, skill, lickings and self satisfaction which do not harm others. Nobody can judge another person for his/her acts and say she/he will not go to heaven if the person does so…..or does not do so….. It is our creator who will judge each one one of us where each one of us will go after this like and what reward or punishment we will get after death. The two persons and also many more, who were killed by a these Islamist members either IS or BOKO Haram or AQ or any other group, committed crimes against humanity. I strongly condemn the killers.
    I know personally Xulhaz Mannan. He was a very amicable, loving, helpful, charitable, prompt, friendly, humble and active person. Although he was a working at the US Embassy but he was committed to help people with human rights issues. I found him very smiling every time I met him during last 10/12 years. The act of killing bloggers, free-thinkers, writers, educationists, publishers even atheists is grave crime against humanity. Who gave the killers authority to kill human beings and which god can be so cruel who rewards for killers of his creation? I don’t know yet that either Xulhaz or Tonoy did anything wrong to anyone for which they were condemned by our society. The killers showed their hateful minds, acts and unforgivable crime.
    Hope the government will find out the criminals and punish them with highest punishment of the country’s law. Let us learn to respect and accept people as they are created my the loving God and let us be loving and not brutal and hateful.


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