Thank you for your prayers and support in 2018! It was a rollercoaster of a year – not only in parts of the world that tend to dominate Western news headlines, but also in the countries where Harvest Bridge operates.
Yet God is faithful; our South Asian partners accomplished much for the kingdom last year, despite turbulent changes in their nations.
2018 saw elections in Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan.
Bangladesh’s election, held on December 30th, resulted in a landslide victory for the ruling party but was marred by violence and claims of vote rigging. Rioting has subsided, but it is uncertain what long-term impact the election will have for the Muslim-majority country’s religious minorities – including Christians, who compose less than one percent of the population.
Please join us in praying for Bangladesh, and for HB’s 51 indigenous missionaries who serve in difficult places throughout the country.
Unsurprisingly, October’s election in the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan received little coverage in the West.
Few mission agencies have a presence in this Buddhist-majority nation where less than one percent of the population follows Christ, but HB has 20 indigenous missionaries working throughout the country. Absolute monarchy ended in Bhutan only eleven years ago; the 2018 election was the third of its kind, and it brought in a new ruling party.
Our Bhutan leader informed us the changing political climate has led to increased pressure on the small-but-growing Bhutanese church. We are monitoring the situation, and with your help, we will respond to persecution that is likely to occur this year.
Pakistan’s general election, held in July, also brought change.
The party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan emerged victorious on the national stage for the first time, with Khan becoming Prime Minister. Amid allegations that Pakistan’s powerful military swayed the results in favor of its preferred winner, the country’s marginalized Christian communities continue to live under duress, and it remains to be seen if the new government will bring positive change.
Regardless, HB’s Pakistani partners continue to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel through strategic outreach and community development programs, in a context where living out one’s Christian faith can exact an enormous cost.
Political turbulence in the Buddhist-majority island nation of Sri Lanka took a different form; in October, the country became embroiled in a crisis in which two men claimed to be Prime Minister simultaneously. Resolution only took place with the Supreme Court’s intervention.
In Nepal, Christians and other minorities remain concerned about the country’s new constitution, which effectively criminalizes sharing one’s faith.
Meanwhile, as Myanmar (Burma) rightly makes international headlines over the Rohingya refugee crisis, lesser-known conflicts between the Myanmar army and various ethnic-minority separatist groups continue to affect millions, including many of our missionaries in the nation’s hinterlands.
Looking ahead, elections are due in India in May.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party swept into power in 2014; since then, Modi’s ties to Hindu nationalist groups have emboldened these groups to step up their opposition to the country’s non-Hindus, especially Muslims and Christians. There are some signs of discontent with Modi’s policies, but he and the BJP are likely to remain in power – and the situation for minorities may grow worse.
While the outlook for 2019 can appear bleak both in South Asia and elsewhere, our faith provides an unshakeable hope.
As one of my favorite Psalms indicates, we have nothing to fear when the Lord Almighty is with us (Ps. 46:1-2). Nations are in uproar, but God is greater and oversees all things (Ps. 46:6-10). The advance of God’s kingdom is not dependent upon favorable political conditions, security, or stability – and as we follow Christ, He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20).
So we embark on our labors in 2019 with hope, knowing God will continue to direct His work in South Asia, no matter what turbulent circumstances may arise. Thank you for the crucial part you play in this task!
Happy New Year,
Director of International Partnerships