On 26th March, Bangladesh will celebrate 50 years of independence, but as number 31 on the World Watch List, what’s life actually like for Christians there? Brother Abraham* has been an Open Doors local partner for many years, supporting persecuted believers thanks to your support and prayers. In this interview, he tells us how the gospel has spread since Bangladesh became independent, how it continues to spread today in the face of persecution, and how the work of Open Doors, through local partners like him, has adapted to the changing needs of our brothers and sisters.
How did the situation change for Christians in Bangladesh after the country became independent?
After independence the Christians started to evangelize, they started to spread the gospel all over Bangladesh, because in the constitution, we have freedom (of religion). At that time, many Christian leaders were also part of the government.
Christianity was spreading all over Bangladesh slowly and gradually. Many churches were built in different parts of Bangladesh, and some new denominations came into Bangladesh.
What is the situation like for Christians in Bangladesh today?
We have constitutional freedom. Those who were brought up Christian, they don’t face problems. Bangladesh is a country where all people from different religious background are living together, it’s a community-based people in Bangladesh. 90 per cent of people are Muslim, and around nine per cent are Hindus, and less than one per cent are Christians, but Christians live together with the community.
The problem is that, when they want to do evangelism, that creates problems from the community. In our constitution we can evangelise, we can share our faith, but in practice, it’s difficult.
Many people are coming to Christ from the majority (Muslim) background. Then persecution occurs immediately from the family, from the extended family, from their community. Sometimes, from the government officials, also local officials. Children face discrimination in the schools, by their friends, by their classmates, even sometimes by the teachers.
Persecution is everywhere, but in different forms.
How do believers usually come to faith in Christ?
Praise the Lord, people are coming to faith in Jesus and they are gradually growing both in number and in faith. Some of them have come to Christ through local evangelists, some through friends, family members, neighbours, and some through seminars and conferences.
God is really at work in Bangladesh, especially among the believers from Muslim backgrounds. There are many Muslims who are seekers, they are seeking assurance of salvation. In Islam, there is no assurance of salvation, and this uncertainty leads people to search for assurance of salvation. In searching for salvation, these people study the Quran and many different books, including the Bible, and thus they find assurance of salvation in the Bible.
These believers feel a burden and passion to share the good news of salvation with their loved ones and neighbours. Even through persecution, people come to know about Jesus Christ and finally the persecutors follow Jesus Christ too. God is also raising local leaders from among the believers from Muslim backgrounds who are very passionate about sharing the gospel and have a burden for the Muslim community. These people are unstoppable for God’s kingdom.
This is only possible because God is at His work to bring this nation into His saving grace.
Image: A busy street scene in Bangladesh
What is your hope for the future of the church in Bangladesh?
We want to see many people coming to Christ. The number of Christians will increase rapidly and some day the whole nation will become Christian. That’s my vision.
I want to see a strong local church, with no need to get help from outside of the country – they can sustain themselves through their livelihoods. They can sustain themselves physically and financially, but also spiritually. They can lead lives based on the scripture, and they can be a model in the community.
I want to see a strong church and strong believers so that they can face persecution. When persecution comes they can stand firm.
How would you like Christians around the world to pray for believers in Bangladesh?
We know that prayer is very important and very powerful because we can do nothing without the help of our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father. We ask all the believers in the world to pray for these persecuted believers, especially believers from Muslim background.
*Name changed for security reasons
Please pray as some of these believers (who were kidnapped) are still missing and so far, we don’t have any information or updates about them. Pray for God to help our people, our leaders, to find these (missing people). Pray so that we will have good news about these missing people.
We really plead for your prayers for them so that they can stay strong in their faith in facing this type of persecution. (I believe) they are the instruments of God to be channels of blessings to many, so that the population of Bangladesh will come to know Christ and can receive Him as their Saviour and the Lord.
Pray also for the community, it is such a small community, (living among) the big majority group in Bangladesh. Every day, in different homes, they are facing persecution, sufferings that come from the community, from the authorities, from their neighbours, from these extremist Islamic groups.
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