Bangladesh, South Asia
Political Leader: Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed
Predominant Religions: Islam 85.6%, Hinduism 12.4%, Christianity 0.7%
Persecution Ranking: 44th
Number of Terrorist Groups: 20
Acts of Terrorism: 153; Casualties: 229
Percent of Corruption: 80%
% of People in Poverty: 45%
Bangladesh’s borders are a product of the partitioning of British India that occurred in 1947. Until 1971 it was known as “East Pakistan”, although it was separated by 1000 miles (1600 kilometers) from “East Pakistan” with nearly the whole of India lying in between the two regions. After a nine-month civil war, Bangladesh gained its independence, and since that time, its development has been marred by political turmoil with fourteen different heads of government and at least four military coups. Bangladesh has been ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt countries by Transparency International.
Bangladesh is surrounded by India on all sides except for a tiny border it shares with Myanmar (Burma) and a coastline on the Bay of Bengal. It occupies the delta and floodplains of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers. The majority of the country’s citizens live in great poverty, and the average age is very young, with about half of the population below the age of sixteen. Bangladesh is densely populated, with about 1900 people per square mile, and frequently suffers from natural disasters. Due to its unique geographic location, the country suffers from frequent devastating tropical cyclones. Monsoon flooding habitually decimates one-third of the land, hampering economic development.
Revulsion at the cruelty of East Pakistan's repression in the name of Islam during the 1971 civil war temporarily weakened Bangladeshi loyalty to Islam, giving new opportunities for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the initial promise of Bangladesh emerging as a secular democracy with true freedom of religion soon gave way to the rise of Islamic influences. Secularism was eventually dropped, and Islam was made the state religion in the 8th amendment to the Constitution. Islamization in recent years has reduced the non-Muslim population from 33% in 1941 to 17% in 2001. Although people are officially free to follow whatever religion they choose, there is increasing Islamist pressure to restrict this freedom. Most Christians are poor and marginalized; they must be very careful about how they practice their faith because of the growing Islamic fundamentalism.
The madrasah (religious seminary) education system plays a crucial role in providing free education, board, and lodging to deprived communities in Bangladesh. Many of the 64,000 madrasahs in the country, however, offer an extremely narrow curriculum and are used by hardline clerics to instill radical Islamic ideology and religious intolerance among the poor and uneducated.
Bangladesh has been used as a springboard by many Islamic terrorist organizations into south and south-east Asia. Many Islamic fundamentalist organizations linked with global terrorism, such as Pan Islamic, have a sizeable presence and often maintain training camps, particularly in rural areas.
The current political situation is in turmoil – a caretaker government was established in January 2007 with plans to have elections in January of 2008. However, in the summer of 2007, both heads of the two major political parties were arrested under various charges of corruption, leaving the future uncertain. Religious minorities in Bangladesh are concerned that, as new leaders are elected to power, the government will move toward a more Islamic republic and stricter interpretations and implementation of Sharia law.
- Pray that the government of Bangladesh will strongly enforce not only religious freedom but also the freedom to convert from one belief system to another. Pray for political stability in Bangladesh following months of protests and upheavals. Pray for peace and an end to corruption in government.
- The poverty and suffering experienced in Bangladesh is massive. The majority of population cannot read, get enough food, or decent medical care. Pray that the leadership of the nation will take a stand against corruption and make decisions that will improve the quality of life for all.
- Pray that new Christian Believers from non-Christian backgrounds would be strengthened in their faith and courageous in sharing with others.
- Pray for peace and understanding among different faith groups in Bangladesh, that they will work harmoniously to minister to those made homeless and destitute by the frequent and debilitating natural disasters.
- Pray for the people in Bangladesh as they search for ways to improve the general living conditions in a country that is heavily populated and in need of improved resources in farming and irrigation. Pray that God will provide comfort as they recuperate from numerous natural disasters that have left many loved ones dead and others injured or without food and shelter. Pray that He will give them relief from their troubles and give them reassurance that He will never abandon them.
- Pray that leaders will be given the training, knowledge, and wisdom to grow into mature, godly men and women who will lead the Christian Church with skill and integrity. Pray for new leaders to be raised up who have apostolic gifting and will pastor in major cities. Pray that they would have faith and vision for the Lord’s power and provision for their work.
SOURCES: Global 12 (Bethany World Prayer Center), Operation World, CSW, Barnabas Fund, Terrorism Knowledge Base, The World Factbook