This fourth weekend of November, we once again share the wisdom of some of our country leaders on persecution, building on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 1st. This week, Pastor Darpan* who leads our Bangladesh ministry and Pastor Jagan* who leads the ministry in Bhutan give their insight.
Open Doors ranks Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country, as 31st on the World Watch List, which lists the top 50 countries with the greatest persecution of Christians. Read more here.
In our pastors’ and missionaries’ experience, persecution primarily comes on a local level and not from the government. Physical and emotional attacks most often come from family and community members when a Muslim, Hindu, or Animist begins following Jesus. For the men and women we support, persecution is more common for them than other Christians in the country because they are openly sharing the Gospel as pastors and missionaries.
Pastor Darpan*, a humble and kind servant of God, oversees a Bangladeshi network of over fifty pastors and dozens more missionaries. He says,
“In general, persecution is happening or has come here mostly from the Muslim extremists, a very few times from Hindus, and also in very rare cases by others. According to their religious thoughts and thinking, they are prideful and arrogant, not honoring others who they cannot tolerate. The extremist Muslim believers are trying to stop others, dominating their religious power everywhere. The pride and jealousy of the extremists makes them do bad works and persecute. They hate Jesus/Christians and do not want Christianity to rise here because of their arrogance. They are afraid of Christians, that if the Christian religion exists beside them, then their believers’ numbers will be reduced. They believe Muslim faith is the best out of all religions. This motivates them.
According to our mission to implement the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, we prioritize verse 20, to teach, make disciples and baptize. But because of our country and communities, I always encourage them to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves according to Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” So, maintaining our own safety first is most essential, and then approach with kindness and love…
Pastor Akash*, who I work with, shares what he and another missionary, Sukesh*, experienced last month, which shows this:
“In this pandemic situation, Mr. Sukesh and I went out three or four times a week. In this area, extremists (Muslim) people were watching us and our activities. One day, suddenly, when we were returning to our home, some of the old Muslim people questioned us about where we are returning from. We told them that we were returning from a nearby remote town. When they checked our bags, they found some Bible tracts, small Gospel flipcharts, and a small Bible. They said we had not told the truth to them. They asked us if these were our evangelical tools or materials we have taken to preach. Then, we told them “Yes, but we preached amongst our believers. So, what is it to you?” Very suddenly, one of the aged men slapped us and chased us from there.
After a month, when we were going out in the morning to another village by bicycle, one of the old extremists found and called us with a loving voice. Just as before, we went to him. That man begged pardon because of their act a month ago, saying it was totally inhuman and unreasonable, and illogical. Because of this, his heart was burning to beg pardon from us.
We became shocked to hear about this. As an aged man, we told him that the Christian religion is to forgive like our Lord Jesus who forgave all our sins, and to bow our hearts in surrender, and then Jesus is almighty to forgive. And we are here to teach all the people about my Jesus. Now that man has become our good guardian and friend. Thanks to the Lord, and we are thankful for His love.”
We are thankful to the Lord, and also for our prayer fighters who have been praying continuously for safety for our brothers and sisters who are facing persecution. Endure to see His face. We would like to say to continue your powerful prayers, which are our only strength.”
Open Doors puts Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist Kingdom in the Himalayas, at 45th on its list. You can read their summary here.
Although persecution is not often physical, pressure from the government and police leads to believers often being refused land rights, being taken to prison overnight, and having their children’s names taken off the census, rendering them unabl to access basic services. Pastor Jagan* leads a group of nearly 30 Bhutanese pastors and missionaries partially supported by Harvest Bridge. He reflects,
“The reason for persecution here is not hate of Jesus. No. To the core they don’t want to lose their identity of their culture, which is interconnected with their religion. In terms of Bhutanese culture, it is notable that their culture is their religion and their religion is their culture.
As a leader to persecuted believers, I pray to God who is the only person who can bring solutions for all the problems, I teach them to depend more and more on God than people. To keep moving forward with God.
‘Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ ~ Philippians 3:13-14
Recently, one of my pastors, Pastor Phurba*, shared how God changed a strong Buddhist’s heart.
“One of the villagers in the southwest, Biren*, age 45 and from a staunch Buddhist background, was harassing us all the time whenever we go for ministry. He was bullying us as ‘foreign agents coming with a bag full of money’. We started praying for this gentleman, for God to touch him and bring him into His saving knowledge. On August 23, 2020 as we went for visiting, he invited us to his home. We were filled with much fear and went to his home to find out what kind of issue he had with us. Interestingly, without saying much he requested us to pray for his family, and we prayed for the blessings of the family. He described his encounter with Jesus through his dreams, and that he confessed Jesus is the only living God. Praise God for the way God moved into this gentleman’s heart.”
Pastor Kibu* experienced this too:
“We always used to fear our neighbors, as they always have complained about our singing and many people coming to the house. We went through much harassment. But in the month of April when the lockdown was intensive, we prayed and got strengthened to sing and share the Gospel to the neighbors. Many of our neighbors were regretting complaining about us to the authorities, as they realized that we are praying for our neighbors regularly. A bond of love among the neighbors got developed in this period.”
Being persecuted for faith will be rewarded with church growth, as well as motivation to become much stronger in the Lord. But Christians who are facing opposition for other reasons [other than for faith] are motivated by their self interest, and they need to seek the guidance of God for all that they do.
Please pray for favorable conditions for having at least a house fellowship [which is illegal]. Pray for doors to be open for confessing the faith. Pray for religious freedom to practice and propagate.”
Thank you for reading, for supporting financially, and for praying!
Next week, on the last weekend of November, we will share from two leaders in Kashmir.
*Names changed for safety