Ten-year-old Bijli from Bangladesh already knows the cost of following Jesus. Because of her faith, she is bullied at school and her family are ostracised in their Muslim-majority village. But, thanks to your prayers and support, she knows that she is loved and that she is not alone. She has her Christian family around her.
You enabled Bijli to find new friends
“My mother says that your family are infidels.”
That’s what 10-year-old Bijli was told at school. In her village in Bangladesh, where she lives with her parents and brother, being a Christian makes you an outsider. “My friends don’t want to play with me. They push me,” she says.
"No one wants to talk, communicate or associate with us..." Badol
Sometimes Bijli comes home crying because her ‘friends’ have attacked her. “Bijli comes and says, ‘Mother, they have beaten me. They don’t allow us to join in with them,’” says her mother, Maya. That’s not her real name – all the names in this article have had to be changed, including young Bijli’s, for security reasons.
Bijli’s father, Badol, became a church leader after receiving biblical training through Open Doors partners. He was worried that his Muslim neighbours wouldn’t accept his family’s conversion to Christianity – and, sadly, he was right: “No one wants to talk, communicate or associate with us,” he says.
Across Bangladesh, this is a common story. Christians who have converted from another religion - usually Islam – suffer the most severe persecution. Often, they have to worship in secret, for fear of attack. Or, like Bijli’s family, they are ostracised when they choose not to take part in other religious festivals.
But last Christmas, Bijli was able to find a safe haven for a short time. Open Doors partners accompanied them to a Christian centre, several hours from their village. “We’ve come to celebrate Jesus’ birthday!” said Bijli as they arrived. “I can’t wait for the singing and dancing!”
Around 100 Christian families came to the celebration, all believers from Muslim backgrounds from isolated, rural communities, like Bijli’s family. Many experienced being in a community of believers for the first time – and what better time to do that than at Christmas?
Bijli and her family had a wonderful day of food, festivities and, most importantly, fellowship. One moment was particularly precious, when one of the leaders spoke about ‘Emmanuel’ and God being with us all the time. “Is He even with us in the village?” Bijli asked her mother. “Yes dear,” she replies. “Even when I’m at school?” “Yes Bijli. Jesus is always with you.”
It’s clear that being able to come to this celebration, thanks to your support, means a lot. “Thank you to my friends and those who gave me the opportunity to come here,” says Bijli. “I want to give thanks to all of my ‘uncles and aunts’ who organised this programme.”
Open Doors believes that every child persecuted for their faith should be protected, provided for and given hope for a better future. In many countries, Open Doors partners provide practical, spiritual and educational support to children – including the provision of Bibles, training and long- or short-term shelter in dedicated centres. This is crucial for the future of a resilient church. We must stand with children who face danger and persecution every day because of their faith – particularly at Christmas, when they can feel especially isolated and vulnerable, but also for the long term.
"For the first time, I received relief. I am very happy!" Badol
In 2020, support looks a bit different. While socially distanced gatherings are still an important encouragement for children like Bijli, and are continuing in Bangladesh within safe restrictions, the pandemic has brought up other urgent needs. Bijli couldn’t go to school, and Badol couldn’t work as a driver (which he does alongside being a church leader).
“I had no work for around two months and it was really difficult to meet the needs of my family,” says Badol. “We live hand to mouth, so no work means no food.”
Government aid was distributed by village authorities, but Bijli’s family didn’t get any. They were left out because of their Christian faith. Thankfully, your prayers and support enabled Open Doors partners to provide the family with emergency aid. Badol says, “For the first time, I received relief. I am very happy!”
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.