The People’s Republic of Bangladesh was formed in 1971, when East Pakistan seceded from West Pakistan after a bloody civil war. A poor country prone to flooding and cyclones, Bangladesh is a secular state that has operated under a parliamentary democracy since military rule ended in 1990. Islam is the state religion, but the constitution allows minorities to practise and share their faith.
There has been a Christian presence since the sixteenth century when Portuguese trading posts were established. The 1% Christian minority enjoys greater religious freedom than in many Muslim-majority countries but, along with the 9% Hindus, is subject to discrimination from the 90% Muslim majority.
Formerly anti-Christian violence was rare but, from 2014, it began to rise, particularly in rural areas. The main targets are converts from Islam and those who are active in evangelising Muslims.
Attempts to Islamise the country have been thwarted politically, but the struggle continues between Islamic and secular factions. In 2018, the government was criticised for going against the spirit of the constitution, which prohibits discrimination against any particular religion, when it launched a $1 billion mosque-building programme.
Illegal land-grabs are common. Ethnic minority Christians are particularly vulnerable. Desperately poor Christian parents in the Chittagong Hill Tracts have been persuaded by Muslims to send their children away for education. The children are then forcibly converted to Islam in Islamic madrassa schools.
There are a few hundred Rohingya Christians living among 750,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled genocide in Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh. These Christians suffered extreme persecution in their homeland because of their ethnicity, and are also attacked because of their faith by Rohingya Muslim extremists in the camps.
Ask the Lord to protect and provide for Bangladeshi Christians, especially converts, and also Rohingya Christian refugees. Give thanks for those who stand firm in the faith despite persecution, and are even faithful unto death.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet