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Bangladesh: 'We have the joy of God in our heart'
30 June 2017
When you meet Mosammot Josna Begum (47) and her daughter, Moushumi (28), it is striking to see how much they smile. The joy of Christ radiates from them. Despite facing relentless struggles - poverty, loss, persecution - these women continue to draw strength from the Lord.
Josna and her family were already poor. But their troubles only increased after they converted from Islam to Christianity. Moushumi's husband divorced her because of her new faith, forcing Moushumi and her three children to move in with her father and Josna. Finances were stretched. But just three years later, tragedy struck. Josna's husband died, plunging the family into even greater poverty.
Josna and Moushumi were desperate. While Christians in Bangladesh frequently experience discrimination in education and employment, believers from a Muslim background (BMBs) face even worse treatment. Josna and Moushumi lost the support of their family and community because of their faith and, like many BMBs, were only given low-paid jobs that did not cover the costs of living.
Enterprising livestock business
To help relieve Josna and Moushumi's financial pressures, Open Doors provided them with livelihood aid - they received five goats!
"After a year, the goats had two more kids," says Josna, happily. "We kept the kids and sold the five goats for two cows instead. Later, we sold the cows and, with that money and a small loan from the village credit programme, we bought a small piece of land - on which we plan to build our house later. The two calves that we kept earlier have multiplied into seven and are still multiplying!"
Josna and Moushumi continue to work hard to support the family. Besides the earnings from their livestock, they also work in hotels and as housemaids to earn extra income so they can pay their loan instalments and support the children's education in school.
Setting aside time for God
Even in the midst of such busyness, Josna and Moushumi still set aside time for God. As talented folk singers, they use music to praise Him and encourage others.
"We've composed about 20 worship songs that have been sung in different Christian events in our village," Josna shares. Besides that, the pair have composed songs that raise awareness of child marriages in their village - another prevalent issue in the country.
Asked if they plan to remarry, both shake their heads, saying: "We don't want to remarry. We want to live with Christ. Until now, He has provided for all our needs and will continue to do so. Thank you, Open Doors, for helping us in our difficulties. Please pray for us so that we can live well and glorify God through our songs."
Open Doors' livelihood projects support many rejected BMB families like Josna's to earn an income.
"We have the joy of God in our heart, which shows in our faces and attitude," Josna says. "We can be happy forever because of Christ, though we live in poverty."
The world's highest riser
Persecution against Christians in Asia is rising - and no country has risen more places on the 2017 World Watch List than Bangladesh. In 2016, it ranked as number 35. This year, Bangladesh rose nine places to 26, showing that persecution against Christians is increasing at an alarming rate.
In 2016, at least three Christians were arrested for distributing aid and Bibles to refugees. Believers were abducted - some raped. Several Christians had to go into hiding. Four were murdered.
Though Bangladesh's constitution guarantees people the freedom to express any religion, in reality, believers are often discriminated against by both their communities and the authorities.
Increasingly worrying, though, are dangers posed by local and international extremist groups - which includes the so-called Islamic State. The four believers who were murdered for their faith last year were all killed by Bangladeshi militant Islamists. Christian schools, churches and businesses are also threatened, causing some to be abandoned entirely. One shop was torched by local militants last year.
Despite efforts from the country's secular government to curb the influence of extremism, around 4 million students are attending unknown numbers of privately-run madrassas (Islamic schools), which are having an unchecked influence on the youngsters' ideology. And 2 million young people are currently attending registered madrassas. Last year, nine perpetrators of a siege on a café in Dhaka, in which 20 were executed for 'non-Muslim' beliefs, had all attended these madrassas.
- Thank God for Josna and Moushumi's enterprising attitude and inspiring joy
- For BMBs who struggle to make ends meet because of their faith, and for Open Doors teams supporting them
- Ask the Lord to protect those vulnerable to the influence of Islamist extremists.
More News from Bangladesh:
- Open Doors provides life-saving aid to flood survivors
- Christians face discrimination in aid distribution after flooding
- 'I can read the Bible now!'
- Cafe attack - further signs of growing extremism
- Helping believers to stand strong as persecution rises
Find out more about persecution in Bangladesh.