Only a very small percentage of Bangladesh is Christian – around 903,000 from a population of almost 170 million.
Bangladeshi society is growing increasingly Islamic, with the government doing more to appease concerns from Muslim hardliners. Islamic extremists in the country pressure all groups of Christians. Evangelistic churches that work among the Muslim majority face the most persecution, but even historical churches like the Roman Catholic Church are increasingly faced with attacks and death-threats.
Converts from a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or a tribal background suffer the most severe restrictions, discrimination and attacks in Bangladesh. They often gather in small house churches or secret groups due to fear of attack.
Tribal Christians, like those from the Santal people group, face an increasing double vulnerability (belonging to both an ethnic and religious minority) and struggle with land-grabbing issues and violence directed against them. Christians among the Muslim-majority Rohingya people, who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, also face harassment and strong pressure from their community. Last year, they were the target of a violent attack by extremist Muslim groups.
“After I accepted Jesus Christ, I was a little bit scared that the Muslim villagers would not want to do anything with me. And now no one wants to talk, communicate or associate with us.” Badol
Badol (name changed) became a church leader after receiving biblical training through Open Doors partners. In his Muslim-majority community, he knew that becoming a Christian and expressing his faith openly would make things difficult. He was worried that his Muslim neighbours wouldn’t accept his family after their conversion – and, sadly, he was right: “No one wants to talk, communicate or associate with us,” he says.
Across Bangladesh, this is a common story. Christians who have converted from another religion – usually Islam – suffer the most severe persecution. Often, they must worship in secret, for fear of attack. Or, like Badol’s family, they are ostracised when they choose not to take part in other religious festivals.
During the pandemic, persecution against Christians has intensified. Many falsely believe that Christians from Muslim backgrounds have been paid to convert, which is used as an excuse to deny them vital food aid. Some Islamic scholars and religious leaders began spreading the lie that Covid-19 would only spread to non-Muslims. These lies have been used to stir up bad feelings towards Christians, particularly among those in rural areas with low levels of education, leading some to face social isolation or eviction from their homes and villages. Many believers from Muslim backgrounds have been pressured to return to Islam in order to receive life-saving support from their local authorities.
Since the start of the pandemic, your help has provided over 4,000 Christian families with food aid . You have also helped almost 250 families with income-generating support. Open Doors local partners will continue to support these families in the long term.
Badol and his family are amongst those your help has reached, after they were denied vital food and aid when distributed by local authorities because of their faith. “For the first time, I received relief,” says Badol. “I am very happy!”
At number 31 on the 2021 World Watch List, Bangladesh has risen by seven places – and 17 places since 2018. This is because of increases in persecution in both public and private life. In many aspects of daily life, pressure has tightened for Bangladeshi Christians, and they experience discrimination and persecution.
There have also been violent attacks against Christians. In spring last year, there was a violent incident against the tiny Christian community among the Rohingya refugee community that fled Myanmar for Bangladesh.
Additionally, there is some worry that the government – ruled by a single party that ran unopposed in the most recent elections – is increasingly discriminating against Christians in its efforts to appease Islamic extremists. In many anecdotal situations, Christians were left out of Covid-19 government relief, often facing starvation or severe health issues.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Bangladesh. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works with local churches to strengthen persecuted believers in Bangladesh through training, Bible distribution, literacy and socio-economic development projects, and emergency aid.
God, we pray for the Christians of Bangladesh, coming from so many tribes, tongues and nations. We know You are the God of all people, and that You knit us together as one Church. We ask that You would be the comfort of Your people in Bangladesh. Keep them safe, and help them to grow in faith, hope and love as they seek Your face. Amen.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.