For the approximately two million people who live on the island of Bhola in Bangladesh, life is defined by hardship. With practically no medical facilities or social provision available, Bhola’s name: ‘forgotten place,’ is sadly apt. Thank the Lord for the work of Bhola’s Children UK, a NGO that supports the orphaned and disabled children of Bhola, through cleft-lip surgeries and medical help, sign-language lessons, academic education and life skills such as farming and cooking. Pray that through the support these children receive, they can grow up to live full and healthy lives.
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated nations on earth. With a population of 167 million, almost 95% are Muslim. There are few local believers to bring them the Good News and those that do respond are often left without fellowship. The vast majority of Muslims are without any access to the gospel and the local church remains culturally divided from them. Long term workers report openness and fruitfulness among Muslims, but there is a great need for more workers. Barriers need to be broken down between people groups, local believers need to be trained and equipped and the lost reached with the Good News. Pray for more workers who would be effective in making disciples among Bangladeshi Muslims and for the local church to grow in sensitivity to the culture of the Muslims they are trying to reach.
The IFES movement in Bangladesh is holding four regional camps in March - June. The theme for each is “Be Shining – Isaiah 60v1”. Pray that each Christian student would shine on their campus, that their friends would turn to Christ and that this would bring glory to God in Bangladeshi universities. It is a complex place to share Christ, so the movement also ask for prayer for protection for their country “from political complexity and violence. Also please pray for security, economic development, and political stability.”
Elections took place in December in Bangladesh and this caused some unrest, as well as disruption to the number of foreign aid workers who were trying to get into the country to serve the needs of the Rohingya community. Pray for open borders so that medical teams can get back into the refugee camps to help this displaced community. A medical clinic in one of the camps uses teams of Christian doctors, nurses and midwives to serve alongside Bangladeshi medical personnel to minister to the many needs of the Rohingya people. We now have reports of Rohingya individuals coming to know Christ. Pray for God to show mercy on the people suffering in the camps and for a political way forward to help them return to Myanmar in peace one day.
Mobile medical clinics were recently carried out in two villages within an unreached area of Central Asia. Over 450 people were seen in the four days the clinic ran and individuals were able to share their health and life concerns. Many who came to see the psychologist had problems which caused ill health and depression. The team remarked how many of these individuals had sad eyes. But, once they had the opportunity to share their stories away from others in the community, they could see ways to solve their problems. At the clinic, miracles were happening: sad eyes became bright! Counselling gave them hope for the future. Pray for these people to begin a journey with Christ as a result of the medical help they received from believers.
The Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are at grave risk from monsoon flooding. A report by the Parliamentary Committee for International Development has warned that “a substantial proportion of the Rohingya refugees’ accommodation is vulnerable to the heavy rainfall the imminent monsoon season would bring”. People are going to die without decisions and actions to enable relocation. Pray that the Bangladeshi Government and other agencies would act to protect refugees from further tragedy.
A new medical clinic has been built in one of the Rohingya refugees camps and dedicated recently. Teams of Christian doctors, nurses and midwives from around the world will serve alongside Bangladeshi medical personnel to minister to the many needs of the Rohingya refugees. Pray for God to show mercy on all the suffering people in the camps. Pray that the teams will stay disease-free, for health, strength and stamina, and for more Rohingya translators to be found. Ask that the compassion of Christ will be clearly shown to all.
The Rakhine people used to live in Myanmar, but now many are settled just over the border in the hills of southeastern Bangladesh. Although 89% of Bangladeshi people identify as Muslims, most Rakhine people are Buddhist. For generations they have remained faithful to their Buddhist traditions. While Burmese Bibles are available, the community has been largely unreceptive to God’s word, with only 3% of the Rakhine people in Bangladesh professing faith in Jesus. Praise God that hope is alive. Despite oppression, the church in Bangladesh is growing. Please pray that God’s word would take root among the Rakhine people and that followers of Jesus in Bangladesh will know how God wants them to reach out to the migrants arriving from neighbouring countries.
Give thanks for a new project that will help women and children affected by leprosy or other neglected tropical diseases, as well as people with disabilities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Pray that leprosy sufferers will benefit from this community-based rehabilitation and nutrition project and that our partnership with the local government health centres in the urban districts would be of service to them. Pray too that another project in the Chittagongs, involving people forming local associations in order to own and run their own projects, will be successful in their multiple elements: disability care; raising awareness of people’s rights; improvement of social status; and economic and income development.
The tiny country of Bangladesh is the home of Bengal tigers, beautiful beaches and a lush, green landscape. It is also a land of brutal poverty, corruption and wave after wave of unrelenting natural disasters. Once among the wealthiest areas of the Indian Subcontinent, Bangladesh is now one of the poorest. More than a third of its people live below the poverty line. Bangladesh has a young population, with more than half of its people under age 15. Pray for young people in Bangladesh to have their eyes opened to the truth of Jesus. Pray for Bangladeshis seeking asylum around the world to meet with believers in Jesus who would share Him with them. Pray for more workers to go out and work in the harvest fields of Bangladesh.
It is challenging to be a Christian in Bangladesh but there are many opportunities to share the gospel with other faiths. Christians are not allowed to establish Bible study groups on campuses so most groups are located in Christian hostels, school compounds and churches. The Christian student movement has been issuing a ‘challenge to action’ through its leadership training events to encourage student leaders to establish new Bible study groups. Pray that they will see lifelong, committed graduates to support the ministry sacrificially, as many are so involved with their professions that they forget the blessing of student ministry.
An estimated 20 million people in south Asia have been affected by devastating floods triggered by monsoon rains – the worst in 50 years. Across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, loved ones have been killed, homes and livelihoods lost and vital infrastructure destroyed. Tearfund’s partners are battling extreme weather conditions and extensive flood damage to get emergency aid including food and shelter to those most in need.
The Church of Bangladesh is reporting some success in its Justice for Bangladeshi Garment Workers Campaign, but says that much more still needs to be done. The campaign was launched after 1,129 people, mostly garment workers, were killed following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building a year ago. So far, the campaign has secured new legal safety standards for Bangladesh factories and more pay for the lowest paid garment workers. In addition, 150 global high-street brands are now working with local trade unions to make the factories safe. As well as praying, the group is urging Christians in developed countries to help put pressure on retailers.
Give thanks for the only reconstructive referral centre in Bangladesh: the Danish-Bangladesh Leprosy Mission hospital which provides specialist leprosy treatment and general medical services for people affected by leprosy. Their emphasis is on supporting children, women and the ultra-poor. An ophthalmologist goes to the hospital every week to treat eye conditions and regular surgical camps also take place. Pray that, in a male dominated society, where women are particularly vulnerable, they will come forward for treatment and not feel marginalised and lonely.
More than 1,000 people died when a garment factory building in Dhaka collapsed in April. This tragedy, the worst of its kind, has highlighted the exploitation faced by thousands of young women, and girls as young as ten, who risk their lives every day working in hazardous conditions. Pray for Christian organisations in Bangladesh as they step up their work to bring about a sea change in the circumstances which force young women away from proper education and into these huge garment factories.
The situation in Bangladesh is worsening following months of protests and political tension. Much of the current unrest began when Islamist leaders accused of wartime atrocities were sentenced to death. Clashes between protesters and the army have been violent, and more than 50 people have been killed so far, with hundreds more injured. Thousands more are being affected by strikes and protests, causing disruption to education, public services and infrastructure. Please pray for peace and political stability in Bangladesh, and for increased tolerance between different religious and political groups.
Ali started following Christ in 1991. He describes his life before he knew Christ as 'ugly', without any good reputation to show as a Muslim. Eventually, Ali felt he needed to change, so he sought forgiveness. "But in Islam, if you miss just one prayer (out of the five) in a day, you're guilty of spending many years in hell. And I have missed it a thousand times!" His despair led him to explore other faiths. "A Christian showed me in the Bible that Isa (Jesus) came to save sinners," Ali recounted. "He read me Mark 2:17: 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.' In that verse, I found hope. I made up my mind to follow Jesus." Give thanks for Ali’s testimony and pray for other Muslims in Bangladesh to find forgiveness in Jesus.
Fixing sanitation problems, stopping domestic violence, preventing child marriages. These are just a few of the ways in which Bangladeshi women who have gained dignity and empowerment through a church-run programme are now transforming whole villages. The Church of Bangladesh Social Development Programme has formed development groups with around 20 women who meet for discussion and skills training. They are often given small loans and taught how to save money. Pray that these women and others would continue to be empowered, and would spread the Good News in their communities.
According to a study by The Lancet in 2010, up to 77 million Bangladeshis have been exposed to toxic levels of arsenic in drinking water in recent decades. The arsenic occurs naturally - deposited over thousands of years in the Greater Ganges delta. The World Health Organization termed this as ‘the largest mass poisoning of a population in history’. Koinonia is an organisation helping 20,000 people in three districts of southern Bangladesh by monitoring arsenic levels, providing clean water supplies, and providing medical and nutritional support for arsenicosis patients. Pray for their work.
On top of the regular threat of flooding and cyclones, in Bangladesh climate change is an ever present reality. A sea level rise of 1.5 metres could see a fifth of the country left under water. In a country where most of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihoods and almost 80 million people survive on less than US$1 a day, this would be nothing short of catastrophic. In July, a three-year programme to help vulnerable communities to be better prepared for future floods will begin with awareness and training work in ten communities close to the flood-poine river Padma. Pray for the success of this work, as those involved seek to lift people out of material and spiritual poverty.
In 1991, up to 200,000 Rohingya (a Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar) were forced to flee to Bangladesh following persecution by the ruling military junta. Having been unable to return, thousands of children are now growing up in refugee camps and facing a bleak future. Although primary schools have been allowed to be established in the camps, there are no secondary schools and the refugees are officially barred from leaving the camps to find education elsewhere. Pray for Rohingya refugee children and families to come to know the true hope found in Jesus.
Bangladesh is the most densely populated agricultural nation on Earth. Located on the Bay of Bengal and comprising a lush matrix of rivers and deltas, it is infamous for its frequent floods and violent cyclones which, together with poor governance, have kept this largely Muslim nation as one of the poorest in the world. The Church in Bangladesh is tiny and the ‘cares of this world’ often take precedence over spiritual growth. Nevertheless, many of the elements necessary for explosive church growth seem to be in place: translated Scriptures, correspondence courses, winsome media materials, a growing numbers of believers, maturing leaders, and official religious tolerance. Pray that the Lord will build His Church in Bangladesh to bring hope to this struggling nation.
The 150,000 Mahimal Muslim fishermen sail their boats on the waters of the Sylhet region of Bangladesh, the only hint of modern technology being the nylon nets they use to haul in their catch. Before they set out on their first fishing voyage of the year, they say prayers to Allah, receive blessings from religious leaders and offer money to mausoleums of holy saints in hopes of ensuring success. In spite of all their efforts and the importance of fish in their country, these boatmen are confined to the lowest classes of society. Around 98% of the population of Bangladesh are Muslims and the Mahimal are one of many of the people groups who are unreached with the gospel. Ask God to open doors for Christian witness in Bangladesh.
Although the Bangladeshi Government publicly supports freedom of religion, attacks on Christians continue. Some Muslim extremist groups have political party affiliations. In rural areas, Muslims put pressure on Christians and new believers face opposition from their families and communities. Furthermore, police discrimination against Christians is common and pastors are the victims of harassment and violence. In January a pastor received death threats after reporting eight Muslims for raping his wife and robbing his house. Praise God that the number of believers from a Muslim background is growing and pray for the leadership training programmes currently taking place, as well as for advocacy bodies working to support and advise believers facing discrimination.
Population: 163,187,000 (2017)
Official languages: Bengali
GDP (PPP) per capita: $4,207 (2017 est.)
Life expectancy: 69 years
Religions: 90% Muslim, 9% Hindu, 1% other religions