Christians in Bangladesh’s southeastern hill tracts were sadly prevented from celebrating Christmas this year. The United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), one of the two main political parties, strongly urged at least seven churches against worshipping together on Christmas. On December 19th, five tribal people, who are members of UPDF, called a meeting of 50 Buddhists and seven Christians, including the Baptist church pastor. It was then that they threatened the Christians, saying, “If you worship today, it will land you in unforeseeable consequences,” a source reported.
About a year ago, unknown assailants vandalized the church building, a tin-roofed structure with walls of straw and a clay floor. “We tried to reconstruct the church, but the villagers kept us from rebuilding it,” one source said. The pastor and some members of nearby Shuknachari Baptist Church have been living like refugees for several months due to threats from the armed UPDF. Of 18 Christian families in the village, only seven or eight families have maintained their faith in Christ in the face of the opposition, with the others returning to Buddhism under compulsion. The Rev. Leor P. Sarkar, general secretary of Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship, told Compass that religious rights of the tribal Christians were violated in the hill districts, and noted; “Another form of religious extremism [Buddhist] is surfacing.”
Muslims make up nearly 90 percent of Bangladesh’s population, with Christians and Buddhists accounting for less than 1 percent of the 164.4 million people. Hinduism is the second largest religious affiliation at 9.2 percent of the people.
Father, our brothers and sisters in Bangladesh have suffered so much as they stand in their faith. We are saddened to learn that because of threats and pressure families have turned away from You. Father we pray for these families who have renounced You due to their circumstances. Help them, and others like them, to pursue righteousness and empower them to resist temptations. We invoke Your promise that You will never let them be tempted beyond what they can bear (1 Cor 10:13). Father, we ask that You stop any attacks from this radical Buddhist group, and despite the threats against celebrating Christmas, we ask that Christians in Bangladesh would still find opportunities to gather together to worship You and remember Your love and grace over them. Amen
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