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Bangladesh

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Barnabas Aid provides food parcels for needy Christians in Bangladesh

Believers in Bangladesh have been afforded greater religious freedom than their Christian brothers and sisters in most other Muslim-majority contexts. But last year an intensifying Islamist campaign began to threaten the position of the country’s Christians.

Violent protests by Islamists erupted in February 2013 following trials of Islamist leaders relating to war crimes connected with the 1971 War of Independence. The protestors demanded that Bangladesh become an Islamic state, and massive rallies were staged calling for the introduction of “blasphemy laws”. Similar legislation in Pakistan causes much suffering amongst the Christian community.

Anti-Christian violence by Islamists emboldened by the protests followed; Christian homes were torched and churches threatened. On 6 June, a mob of around 60 Islamic extremists raided a predominantly Christian village before moving on to a nearby seminary, where they battered down the doors and severely beat the rector and a number of students.

Although the secular government continued to affirm the country’s secular character and commitment to religious freedom, Islamists also made significant political gains in 2013. Mayoral elections in five cities were won by the opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), with support from Islamists. The BNP was expected to go on to win the general election of 5 January 2014, but they boycotted the poll, resulting in a hollow landslide victory for the sitting Awami League. Voting was marred by controversy and violence; a Christian man was killed, his village having previously been torched by Islamists to punish Christians for taking part in the election.  

Christians have a low social status in Bangladesh, where they make up just 1% of a population that is 90% Muslim, and so they are easy targets for attack by Islamic extremists. Several (including some evangelists) have been martyred in recent years. They wield little political power, and police can sometimes be slow to assist them. They may also experience discrimination in education and employment, and as a result, many Christian families are very poor.

 

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    • Pray for Christians in Sri Lanka facing attacks from Buddhist extremists, who have forced the closure of numerous churches. In an apparently positive move, the government has created a Religious Disputes Unit to address conflicts between different groups and combat attempts to create religious discord. But many Christians and Muslims believe that Buddhist extremists are allowed to operate with impunity and that the new unit will not solve the problems faced by non-Buddhists. A cap on the building of places of worship has also been announced, and this seems to serve the Buddhist lobby, which is opposed to expanding Christian activity. Pray for protection for Christian congregations and that their ministry and mission will not be further impeded. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 3 hours ago

    • Cry out to the Lord for Alexis Prem Kumar, a 47-year-old Christian minister from India who was abducted in Afghanistan on 2 June. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but three Taliban militants have been arrested in connection with it. Alexis had worked for an NGO in Afghanistan since 2011, helping returning refugees. He was leaving a school near Herat for Afghan children who have recently returned from Iran or Pakistan when he was seized. Give thanks for Alexis’ willingness to serve the Lord in what remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians, and pray for his safe return. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Sep 2014 00:00

    • The case of an Egyptian Christian man arrested following complaints by Muslim neighbours that he had been using his home as a church without a permit highlights the need of the Christian community for more places of worship. The 55-year-old man from Minya in Upper Egypt, where Christians are particularly vulnerable to persecution, was arrested once before, in 2011, for the same offence. Every church building in Egypt requires a permit, but these are notoriously difficult to obtain. Pray that the authorities will show leniency to the Christian man and that a provision in the new constitution addressing the issue of church buildings will be enacted. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Kidnapping for ransom has been a persistent problem for the Christian community in Egypt amid the political upheaval and instability following the “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011. On 14 June, Wadie Ramses, a well-known surgeon, was seized in El-Arish. The assailants opened fire on his vehicle and took him away wounded. They later demanded a ransom of ten million Egyptian Pounds (£800,000; US$1.4 million) for his release. Two days later, Christian merchant Gemal Shenouda was captured near his home in the same city. It is thought that Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, who have been behind escalating violence in the Sinai region, are responsible for the kidnappings. Pray for the safe return of our two Christian brothers and that they and their families will know the Lord’s peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • On 18 June, Bishoy Armia Boulous (31) was sentenced to five years in prison and given a fi ne of 500 Egyptian Pounds (US£70; £40) for “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information” in connection with reports he produced relating to anti-Christian violence in Minya for a Christian TV channel. His lawyer believes that Bishoy has been targeted because of his conversion from Islam. The Christian gained notoriety in Egypt in 2007 as the first person to try to change his religion on his ID card, a case that is still unresolved owing to the political tumult in the country over the last three years. Pray that the Lord will be Bishoy’s strength and shield (Psalm 28:7), and that he will soon be released. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

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