The USCIRF releases a country update for Bangladesh

By June 1, 2020

Bangladesh (MNN) — The USCIRF updates Americans on the ways Bangladesh mistreats Christians and other religious minorities.

Last month, we reported on the United States Commission On International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) annual report. Now the USCIRF has released a country update on Bangladesh.

Vincent Michael of FMI says, “The report is kind of briefing us as Americans about the situation. According to the report, there were four reasons why The USCIRF felt they needed to release this information. The first was the Vested Property Act . . . then the Digital Security Act was number two. Then they listed the rise of religious extremism. Fourth, they listed challenges posed by local law enforcement.”

The Vested Property Act

The end of the war that split Bangladesh and Pakistan. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Michael says this act stems from a long history of conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Pakistan and Bangladesh both have majority Muslim populations, and both have laws allowing the seizure of property from religious minorities.

Michael explains how this relates to Christians. “Christians kind of get caught in the middle. This piece of legislation, whenever it was first formed, had Hindus in mind. But because Christians are neither Hindus nor Muslims, they sort of get lumped in with the rest of the minorities. You can see this legislation used against Christians as an excuse to grab churches and land that people feel is valuable.”

The Digital Security Act

Bangladesh passed the Digital Security Act act in 2018. Michael says, “The Digital Security Act is basically a way for the government to control speech that it deems harmful. It has implications not only for a free press but also for Christians who are trying to preach their faith, especially on social media.”

This was always a problem in Muslim-majority Pakistan, Michael says. But now Christians in Bangladesh worry about being accused of blasphemy as well. Michael says Bangladesh has seen a lot more Muslim influence as religious extremism increases.

A church in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Trouble with law enforcement

Michael says while it may not be illegal to practice the Christian faith in Bangladesh, local law enforcement doesn’t always protect religious minorities. “You might have a community that is majority Muslim. And perhaps they’re being courted by more extreme elements within Islam . . . the community might be persecuting Christians as a minority.”

Michael says Christians in the West can pray that their brothers and sisters in Bangladesh would be free from religious persecution. But if it persists,  pray they would be faithful witnesses to Christ.

On a recent trip to Bangladesh, Michael spoke with several Christians, asking how many had been persecuted in some way. “Nearly every hand in the room had gone up. In some way, they had been discriminated against. In some way, they had been persecuted. Almost all of them had been beaten for their faith. At one part of our conversation, they all turned to me. And they said, ‘Why, haven’t you been?’ I found myself at a loss for words. In their understanding, persecution and discrimination are part of identifying with the sufferings of Christ.”



Header image by othebo from Pixabay.

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