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Bangladesh: militants go after secularists, intellectuals, atheists, Christians

By April 8, 2016
(Photo courtesy Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

Bangladesh (MNN) — It seems like no one is safe if you have a difference of opinion on what militant Islam is doing to Bangladesh.

In a story we brought to you yesterday via Asian Access, militants had lists of Muslim-Background Believers and were hunting them down for “apostasy.” Today, we’re finding it’s not limited to Gospel workers. It also includes intellectuals and bloggers who have written critical content about Muslim extremists on social media.

On Thursday, a group of men attacked a law student for his atheistic comments on Facebook. Bruce Allen with Forgotten Missionaries International says, “People do not like when a blogger is saying, ‘Our constitution says we’re a secular society. Let’s have a more democratic forum.'”

The deadly attack on 27-year-old Nazimuddin Samad was eerily similar to a series of attacks on bloggers carried out last year and credited to an al-Qaeda branch going after “blasphemers.” But really, “This graduate student was killed simply because they didn’t like his views.”

Allen adds that the recent High Court decision to keep the status quo of the Constitution may have banked inflamed political tensions for now. “Whatever the Court’s motivation was, they reaffirmed: ‘We’re a secular society, but Islam is the state religion.’ So, people are a little bit bewildered in the streets.”

(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks in Bangladesh over the past six months, even though the government of Bangladesh claims there is no IS presence in the country. Yet, Allen says, “Ministry certainly still does continue there. We have so many opportunities for Scripture distribution, for evangelism in Bangladesh. When I just recently met with our national leadership team there, they said, ‘Yes, there are hindrances to ministry here, but we’re willing to run this race.'”

What it means is that even though Christianity is growing, it faces more and more restrictions and challenges. Churches, especially house churches where Muslim-background believers meet, prefer not to display any Christian symbols in order to avoid being recognized. While there are no anti-conversion laws on the books in Bangladesh, pressure to recant the Christian faith will be exerted by family, friends, and neighbors. “Paul would write in the New Testament, as he’s penning letters to churches: ‘Pray for me because there’s great opportunity and great opposition.'”

As far as freedom of religion goes in Bangladesh, it’s more than just the freedom of worship; it’s the freedom from the state to impose its own expression of faith in its culture. It’s the freedom to believe differently from the dictates of a government stands as a foundational building block to a free society. But it’s bigger than that.

(Photo courtesy FMI)

(Photo courtesy FMI)

It really does boil down to: Pray, Give, Go.  “We’re training our partners how to be savvy, how to understand the generation that they live in, their cultures, and to see the opportunities [and take advantage of them] in creative and godly ways.”

The bigger picture beyond the politics of extremism? Building the kingdom of heaven. Sharing hope that counters the despair in a fallen world. What lies beyond is eternity.

FMI supports pastors and interns and has provided scholarships and university-level theological courses for the training of future church planters and teachers. ”We don’t shrink back from those opportunities, simply because of opposition,” Allen concludes. “Jesus tells His disciples as they’re going out to do ministry, ‘You need to be smart. You need to be savvy: shrewd as snakes, but still, your motivations…need to be harmless as doves.'”

Pray that God will protect the vulnerable Christian minority from radical Islamic groups, especially as some groups are now partly allied with Islamic State (IS) militants.

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