Instability, violence brings Bangladesh to standstill

By December 23, 2013
(File footage Bangladesh protests)

(File footage Bangladesh protests)

Bangladesh (MNN) — Bangladesh is blowing up.

A strong undercurrent of tension between the government and opposition leaders finally came to a head as each accused the other of power grabs made on the eve of elections. Peter Mazumder with Asian Access also serves as director of IFES-Bangladesh. He explains, “The political turmoil is so dangerous in Bangladesh because [the] opposition party is demanding that the present government should call their caretaker government, and that’s the reason [they’re] having a general election on the 5th of January.”

It spilled over in political violence that has left over 100 people dead. As a result, Bangladesh will deploy thousands of troops next week in an effort to contain the tumult ahead of controversial general elections set for January 5.

What it boils down to is the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies demanding that the sitting government hand over control to a neutral caretaker government, which will then oversee elections. Three rounds of UN-brokered talks between the government and opposition failed to resolve the dispute, plunging the nation into its worst crisis in decades.

The reason for the mistrust? Mazumder says, “They [sitting government] had been given the responsibility of the caretaker government for three months, [but] they ran this country for three and a half years.”

As a result, the BNP refuses to field any candidates for the election. Their reasoning, says Mazumder, is that “with this present leadership of the present government, there will be no free and fair election. That’s the reason lots of general strikes are called by the opposition party.”

(Photo courtesy Asian Access)

(Photo courtesy Asian Access)

Since late October, the strikes have been gaining a following. “We are now facing lots of problems in Bangladesh. From one corner to another corner, you can’t move. All the buses, trains, and everything are stopped.”

The cities where the protests are held essentially come to a standstill. That’s had a direct impact on Asian Access training, he adds. “Several evangelistic conferences [and everything] got cancelled because nobody was able to come from different cities to the conference. Everything is difficult at this time.”

In the remote areas, the rampage is spreading, bringing about speculation of a state of emergency being declared. “The opposition party: they are burning, they are putting the petrol bombs in different places. People are very scared. We are very scared to go out from place to another.” Within the last few days, “They [opposition party] burned many Hindu’s houses, Christian houses, and it’s really not safe, especially in the remote areas.”

(Photo courtesy Asian Access)

(Photo courtesy Asian Access)

Core to the vision of Asian Access is the vision to “make disciples of all nations” or as they call it, “to reproduce disciple-making leaders” who will plant “multiplying churches.” A2/Bangladesh just graduated its first group of emerging young leaders from a predominantly Muslim dominant nation. While it’s cause for celebration, it’s also a call to prayer. “When the political turmoil comes, this has been affecting the minority groups, especially the Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus, because this is a Muslim country.” Mazumder says in times like these, it’s dangerous to be part of that minority. He asks us to “pray that God may protect our believers from the fundamental people who always think that we are enemies of them.”

Many of the pastors who are involved with A2/Bangladesh are living in rural areas where they’re noticing a spike in trouble from the fundamental groups. Undaunted, they’re pressing forward, but that’s why they need prayer cover, explains Mazumder. “We are living with faith, so please pray for the pastors and evangelists who are working in the remote areas.”

Click here for details on A2/Bangladesh’s work.

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