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Bangladesh: Helping believers to stand strong as persecution rises
14 June 2016
When Pastor Faruk al Ahmed* learned of the brutal murder of Habib Alam*, he almost couldn't believe it. Faruk knew that Bangladesh was becoming increasingly unsafe for Christians - every month there was an attack by Islamic extremists on minority groups - but never did he imagine that such a fate would come to someone so close to him.
Faruk is now 61, a believer from a Muslim background. He remembers, "When I was younger, I used to work with the government as a primary school teacher. But my whole life changed when, in 1984, I received Jesus after reading a Christian booklet."
He left his day job to start a full-time ministry. Ten years later, he began a venture to preach the gospel in the district of Kurigram, northern Bangladesh. "Habib Alam was the first person who received Jesus through my ministry."
The relationship between the two men deepened as Pastor Faruk stayed at Habib's home while serving in Kurigram. Habib eventually captured Pastor Faruk's zeal to reach out to others and later helped as his assistant. The murder of Habib in March of this year by members of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has left the pastor deeply shocked and grieving.
The tragedy also left the Christians in Kurigram traumatised and terrified - but they didn't let fear overtake them. "Three days after Habib's murder came Good Friday. During the church service, the congregation obtained tremendous energy and courage through fellowship, prayer, and the scripture."
Most of these believers come from Muslim backgrounds and have found Christ through Pastor Faruk's ministry. "When I began my ministry in Kurigram, there was only one traditional Christian family and one family from a Muslim background. Now, almost 1,500 believers from Muslim backgrounds are glorifying God in this area!" he says. But the greater the flock grows, the more likely they are to attract danger.
The country has seen a string of attacks against Christians, Hindus, Shia/Shiite Muslims and Atheist bloggers over the past year, carried out by home-grown terrorist groups linked to IS. Since November 2015, dozens of Christian pastors and leaders have received death threats in the form of letters and text messages, and several have been killed.
Despite the growing danger and the tragic loss of Habib, Pastor Faruk's faith remains unwavering: "Persecution will come more but the believers and I are ready to face it. In fact, we are preparing all believers to suffer for Christ."
One of his church members said: "Threats are coming from Muslim mobs and neighbours, but I have no fear. I'm ready to die for Christ as He died for me. God will save us from the evil one."
To further encourage the believers in northern Bangladesh, Open Doors held a Standing Strong Through the Storm training in April for 39 believers from Muslim backgrounds, including Pastor Faruk.
*names changed for security reasons
Stand with your church family in Bangladesh
Open Doors works together with local churches to supports persecuted believers through training, providing Bibles and other Christian literature, socio-economic development, providing advocacy and immediate relief to victims of persecution, and preparing believers to deal with persecution through Standing Strong Through the Storm seminars.
Stand with your church family in Bangladesh:
- Pray. Use the prayer points below.
- Give. Every £22 can provide four Bibles for persecuted Christians in South East Asia.
- Speak out. Tell your church or small group about the persecution facing believers in Bangladesh, and ask them to pray for our brothers and sisters there.
- That God will bless the work of Pastor Faruk's church as he works to prepare another to take over his ministry, and to establish an orphanage in Habib's memory
- For courage for the believers as they continue to reach out to their Muslim neighbours
- For protection for Christians and other minorities in Bangladesh
- For comfort for Faruk and all who mourn the loss of Habib.
More News from Bangladesh:
- Open Doors provides life-saving aid to flood survivors
- Christians face discrimination in aid distribution after flooding
- 'We have the joy of God in our heart'
- 'I can read the Bible now!'
- Cafe attack - further signs of growing extremism
Find out more about persecution in Bangladesh.