A poor country vulnerable to floods and cyclones, Bangladesh came into being in 1971 following a civil war that saw the country, then known as East Pakistan, secede from West Pakistan. Whilst Islam is the state religion, Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy and the constitution allows minorities to practise and share their faith.
The Christian minority of less than 1% enjoys greater freedom than in many Muslim-majority countries, but, along with the 9% Hindu population, experiences discrimination from the 90% Muslim majority.
Anti-Christian violence began to increase from 2014 onwards, especially in rural areas, although it remains at a low level. The main targets are converts from Islam and those who are active in evangelising Muslims.
Bangladesh has restrained the rise of political Islam for many years, but Islamism is growing. Jihadi movements are recruiting powerfully, as indicated by the arrest of more than 500 militants in 2022. Islamist propaganda, economic downturn and youth unemployment, and the perception of poor governance are all factors in radicalising young Muslim men. Extremist group Hefazat-e-Islam seeks to implement a manifesto that includes the death sentence for those who insult Islam, compulsory Islamic education for children, and outlawing media content deemed anti-Islamic.
Tribal Christians, such as the Santal people group, are often the victims of land-grabbing or targeted violence. Christian villagers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts near the Myanmar border have been forced to flee from violent attacks by Buddhist extremists.
A few hundred Rohingya Christians live among 900,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled genocide in Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh. They are considered traitors to their community for becoming Christians and have been attacked on occasion by Rohingya Islamist extremists.
Intercede for the small Christian community of Bangladesh, asking that they will experience God’s protection and provision. Pray that, as they present a powerful testimony of God’s love to the Muslim majority, forces that seek to Islamise the nation will be silenced.