Bangladesh (MNN) — An intense hostage standoff in a Bangladesh café ended with 21 people dead last Friday. It was late evening in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city, when several gunmen stormed the restaurant hailing bullets and Islamic epithets.
The Muslim extremists then rounded up cafe patrons and staff, forcing them to recite Koran verses. Those who passed were separated from the others and given food and water. The rest were tortured and killed — mostly foreigners. They included citizens from the US, India, Japan, and Italy.
The gunmen let some hijab-dressed women leave the cafe. One Bangladeshi young man was with two young women dressed in western clothing. When the gunmen told the young man he could leave as well, he refused and chose to stay with his companions. He was also among those found dead at the scene.
After a nine hour standoff, Bangladeshi special forces were able to fight their way into the cafe. Most of the gunmen were killed in the offensive; one was arrested.
Since the attack on Friday, ISIS has taken credit for it. But Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI) says the Bangladesh government would rather blame someone else.
“Islamic State claims responsibility for Friday’s attack, but the Bangladeshi government continues to deny that Islamic State even operates within the country. Instead they insist that the attack was the work of local terrorists.”
Allen was just in Bangladesh last week. He says, “I’ve been traveling across Asia in the world’s three largest Muslim-dominant countries during these past few weeks of Ramadan. About 30 hours before the hostage situation occurred in Dhaka which resulted in the deaths of 21 people at a restaurant in the Bangladeshi capital, I was walking with members of FMI’s indigenous leadership team here near the area where the attack would later occur. We were discussing the state of ministry in the country.
“Following our completion of assessments of several pastors’ ministries during field visits in rural western Bangladesh, we had returned to the capital. Our national director for Bangladesh told me, ‘There are many threats against the Christian community and other minorities here. The biggest threat is terrorism.’ And his words proved right within a matter of hours.”
The attack in Bangladesh preceded another assault by ISIS in Baghdad, Iraq on Saturday. A suicide truck bomber detonated in a crowded shopping mall. That death toll has risen to 200 over the last few days and has made the Baghdad bombing Iraq’s single deadliest attack.
While there are threats to minorities in Muslim-majority countries like Bangladesh and Iraq, Christians are still advancing the Gospel to their Muslim neighbors, planting churches and baptizing new believers.
Allen says, “There are serious risks here in Bangladesh, which church planters need to identify and manage. But they are prepared to not shrink back from the opportunities that await them as the Lord continues to draw Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in this country to Himself.”
FMI works with Christian partners in Bangladesh specifically to advance the cause of Christ in that nation.
“Across the country, we’re providing our church-planting partners with cartons of Scripture for use among their church members and discipleship and also for evangelism in their communities…. We want to help the local congregations understand that ministry is not just the pastor’s job, but that Jesus calls all His followers to be salt and light and ambassadors of the Gospel,” Allen shares.
In Bangladesh, 89 percent of the population is Muslim, 10 percent are Hindus, and the last one percent includes Buddhists and Christians. The Open Doors World Watch List ranks the level of Christian persecution in Bangladesh at a moderate level. Christians and minorities experience most of their challenges in the country from Muslim extremist groups and family members.
Despite all this, Allen says they are seeing the number of Christians growing in Bangladesh.
“We had the privilege of watching as new followers of Jesus Christ, some of whom had come out of minority Hindu families, get baptized. Then we sat in the homes of their extended families and shared the Gospel with them.”
“Our team from the US also delivered the gift of a much-needed motorcycle, provided by Mission Network News listeners, to one pastor who has planted churches in three different remote villages, and he spends his time divided among them. But with this gift of the motorcycle he can spend less time hiking from place to place and more time in actual ministry. He says he’s going to start outreach in a fourth village!”
Please lift these prayer requests before God:
- Pray for Christians in Bangladesh to have a hopeful and compassionate posture towards their persecutors, and that other minorities and foreigners would take notice.
- Pray for the Christian witness to lead many others in Bangladesh and Iraq to know Jesus Christ.
- Pray that Muslims in Bangladesh would know the truth of God’s salvation message.
- Ask God to send encouragement and healing among the families who lost loved ones in the Bangladesh and Iraq attacks.
- Pray for those currently fighting for ISIS, that they would experience miraculous conviction of the Holy Spirit and find redemption in Jesus Christ — just as the Apostle Paul himself persecuted the early Church before God turned his life around.
You can sign up for FMI’s quarterly prayer letter, or set up a partnership between your family or church and one of these courageous national church planters advancing the Good News of Christ.