|People's Republic of Bangladesh|
Area 143,998 sq.km. Occupying the delta and floodplains of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers, with high rainfall and frequent flooding.
Capital Dhaka 10,979,000. Other major city: Chittagong 2,289,000. Urbanites 20%.
All ethnic groups 61.
Bengali (Bangla) 96.9%. Muslims and Hindus have distinct cultures and dialects. Other related groups: Sylheti 7,060,000; Hajong 36,000; Rajbangsi 15,000.
Other South Asian 2%. Urdu 907,000; Hindi 451,000; Bihari 260,000; Burmese 300,000; Arakanese (Mogh) 200,000; Rohingya (refugees from Myanmar) 200,000.
Tribal 1.1%. Over 35 groups. Most Tibeto-Burman, some Austro-Asiatic in origin. Largest: Chakma 352,000; Garo(5) 250,000; Khasi 242,000; Santal 157,000; Tripuri(3) 152,000; Tipera 100,000; Mru(Chin,10) 54,000; Oraon 31,000.
Literacy 38%. Official language Bangla; English often used. All languages 35. Languages with Scriptures 13Bi 8NT 3por 3w.i.p.
One of the world's poorest nations, suffering from gross over-population and periodic natural disasters such as devastating floods and cyclones with enormous loss of life and property. There seems little hope that the poverty of this land will ever be substantially alleviated. Major sources of foreign exchange are aid, textiles, clothing, jute and funds sent home from Bengalis working abroad. Over 55% live below the poverty line. Under-employment over 50%. HDI 0.440; 150th/174. Public debt 33% of GNP. Income/person $360 (1% of USA).
For 24 years part of Pakistan. Independence in 1971 after a bitter civil war. Political instability thereafter with assassinations, 18 military coups and a nine-year military dictatorship which ended in 1991. A restored democracy has been marred by the bitter dispute between the two ambitious women who dominated the political scene during the 1990s. The prevailing corruption, cronyism, strikes and unrest have hindered political and economic progress. The opposition party has taken a stronger Islamist line with demands for shari'a law.
A secular state 1971-88. Islam declared the state religion in 1988. Officially there is religious freedom, but this is being steadily eroded by Islamist pressure and a legal system which gives no safeguards to ethnic or religious minorities. The Islamists are a strong and growing minority.
Included are thousands of true followers of Jesus who have not left their culturally Hindu or Muslim identities.
1 A continued relative openness to the gospel continues despite, or even because of, the increased Islamist propaganda and violence, disillusionment with politicians and a series of natural mega-disasters. Pray the openness may increase and yield an abundant harvest.
1 The downward spiral of poverty and suffering cannot be reversed without good, honest and impartial leadership for the nation. The majority of the population is illiterate, malnourished and without adequate medical care. Pray for political stability and a government that is courageous to stand against Islamist demands for increased Islamization and against corruption. It also needs to make tough decisions to improve the quality of life for all.
2 Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, under pressure from extremist Muslim groups, has increased. Christians, Hindus and Buddhists suffer many disadvantages and there have been cases of destruction of churches and persecution of Christians for their faith. Pray for the binding of the powers of darkness operating in the religious, social and ethnic realms. Pray also that constitutional freedom for all to practise and propagate their own religions might be maintained.
3 The churches have been growing at twice the population rate over the past 40 years. Though still constituting officially only 0.3% of the population, they are having an increasing impact on society. Over 80% are literate. Pray specifically for:
b) The Great Commission Movement, launched in 1991, which brought together evangelical congregations with the commitment to prayer, research and cooperation in planting a church in every one of the 464 sub-districts and each of the ethnic groups of the country by the year 2000. Pray that this momentum might be maintained.
c) The people-movement tribal churches. Nearly all the Bawm, Pankhu, Garo and most of the Oraon, Mahili and Khasi have become Christian, and the Santal and Munda peoples have a large and growing minority of Christians. Pray that these churches may become strong, mature and full of missions vision.
d) The churches among sections of the Hindu population. Response has largely been among the Namasudra and Muchi castes. Pray that these Christians may be able to reach other Hindu castes still little affected by the gospel.
a) Nominal Christianity. Early people movements brought thousands of marginalized sections of society into the Church. Poverty, illiteracy and lack of trained and godly leadership have led to shallowness and nominalism.
b) Unity. Imported and indigenous divisions have hindered the effectiveness of witness in the past. Pray for the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh as it seeks to encourage evangelical unity and cooperative action in evangelism, teaching and aid programmes.
a) The College of Christian Theology, the Christian Discipleship Centre and the Dhaka United Theological Seminary are key interdenominational residential schools. The CCT and CDC also run TEE and short-term programmes.
6 There are over 20,000 registered NGOs which have multiplied to meet the land's deep social needs Bangladesh may lead the world in the number, diversity and relative impact of NGOs on the life of the country. Indigenous secular NGOs such as the Grameen Bank have significantly improved the life of millions of the poor, and especially women, with self-help schemes and loans. Christian NGOs have administered aid since independence and, during the nation's frequent natural calamities, have been generous and impartial. HEED and World Vision seek to uphold Christian values and prepare the way for local church and mission involvement. TEAR Fund seconds workers and helps in funding projects. Pray for wisdom and sensitivity for all involved in implementing these programmes that aid not be perceived as manipulative or dependency-producing.
7 Bengali people are by far the largest unreached people in the world with a global total of over 230 million. The majority live in Bangladesh and India, but large communities live in Britain, USA, etc. It was to the Bengali that William Carey went as a missionary. Although they revere Carey's memory, the great breakthrough has still not come after 200 years. Now could be the time for the Bengali people! Many are torn between being good Bengali and good Muslims. Pray specifically for:
i) Openness to the gospel the vast majority have never heard the true gospel.
ii) More workers in 1985 there were only 25 committed to their evangelization. There has been some improvement since then, but both needs and opportunities are greater.
iii) Those who have responded. Thousands have come to trust in Jesus. Many of these continue to live in their communities. Pray for great wisdom in nurturing this movement its leadership, worship patterns and cultural relevance without compromise of biblical truth. Pray for unity to develop and for leaders to model confession and forgiveness. Pray they would learn dependence on God in poverty, firmness under persecution from Muslim neighbours, evangelistic vision and positive relationships with the older Christian community from a different cultural background.
b) The Hindus who feel vulnerable as a religious minority. Their insecurity increased during the time of the Babri Mosque crisis in India when Muslims retaliated by destroying Hindu temples. Pray that this may open many to the truth of Jesus. Many thousands of followers of Jesus remain within the Hindu context and do not link up with 'foreign' Christian bodies. Of the 29 lower castes, only four are over 2% Christians, and in a further six there has been a smaller response. The upper castes have remained resistant to the gospel.
8 The tribal peoples' very existence is threatened by the general population explosion pushing hundreds of thousands of Bengali to invade their territory. The Chakma of the Chittagong Hill Tracts have responded with guerrilla warfare to the destruction of their villages, occupation of their land and even massacres by invading Bengali. Pray for a just settlement the granting of limited autonomy to the region has not improved the situation much. Pray also for Christian agencies seeking to bring the tribal peoples to Christ (ABMS, BMS, IMB-SBC, Presbyterians and Lutherans).
a) Non-Christian tribal groups. Some are resistant to the gospel or have not had adequate opportunity to hear: the animist Mru (work by Baptists), the Buddhist Chakma (Baptists), Mogh and Khyang (several thousand Christians).
b) The Bihari Muslims who, while being refused Bangladeshi citizenship, are also denied entry to India and Pakistan. They live in large refugee camps. Pray that their dilemma may bring an openness to the gospel.
b) Students number over 650,000 in 458 tertiary colleges. There are 600 Christian students in 17 groups led by two staff workers. It is not possible for them to meet on the campuses. Pray for real commitment among these believers and a vision for outreach.
11 Missions have been welcomed for their social uplift programmes hence the emphasis on institutions and aid programmes but too few are directly involved in evangelistic outreach and church planting. Pray for increased opportunities to fulfill their primary calling. Since 1980 limitations have been placed on missionaries, with all projects, plans and finances needing government approval and strict quotas placed on the number of missionaries allowed. Reinforcements with a vision for evangelism and discipling are needed, yet the expatriate force continues to dwindle. Pray for visas, patience with red tape, and strategic usefulness for the small missionary force in a pressurized situation. Some significant agencies are Association of Baptists for World Evangelization, Norwegian Santal Mission, Scandinavian Pentecostals, Mennonite Central Committee, Interserve, IMB-SBC and SIM.
b) Bible Correspondence Courses run by SIM and others; the former have a staff of 5 in Dhaka processing over 2,000 papers a month. Pray for these and all efforts to follow up contacts, and for many to be added to the churches. Pray for inspired, national writers and for efficient production of suitable evangelistic and teaching literature.
b) The wise distribution of the Scriptures in the Bengali Muslim dialect. Many copies of the NT have been distributed since 1981. It has been well received and appreciated by Muslims, but initially met with opposition from some churches. A temporary ban on its import in 1990 enhanced sales. Praise for the publishing of the entire Bible in 2000.
a) Radio. Christian broadcasters (TWR, FEBC and FEBA) transmit eight hours a week in Bengali and 88 hours in English. Pray especially for the production of suitable and sufficient programmes for the non-Christian majority.
b) The JESUS film has been used among Hindus and Muslims with good response. It is completed in Bangla, Sylheti, Assamese and nine tribal languages and is in preparation in five more. Pray for freedom to show the film in villages and for protection for the operators.
c) Cassettes. GRN have a team of recordists working on master tapes in indigenous languages; 21 languages have been recorded. Pray for the completion of the recordings in a further 13 languages and effective use of the finished product.
d) Drama teams are being used to communicate biblical truth to village people. A long tradition of village drama allows more freedom to raise questions and address social issues on the stage than in general society.
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