Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 509 | Wed 17 Dec 2008 ----------------------------------------------------
On 14 August 1947 predominantly Hindu India was partitioned and the Muslim-majority regions of Punjab in the west and Bengal in the east became the independent Muslim state of Pakistan. Power was concentrated in West Pakistan which was separated from East Pakistan by 1600km of Indian territory.
East Pakistan's 1970 elections delivered an overwhelming victory to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Awami League which stood on a platform of secularism, Bengali (as distinct from Islamic) culture and autonomy from West Pakistan. After Sheikh Mujibur was subsequently arrested and taken to West Pakistan, Awami League leaders in exile declared independence. The Muslim Punjabi-dominated Pakistani Army then invaded pro-secular East Pakistan, triggering the War of Liberation through which East Pakistan's Bengalis fought for and achieved their independence with Indian assistance and at the cost of up to three million lives.
Upon his return to Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), Sheikh Mujibur served as prime minister and then president until he was assassinated in a military coup in 1975. In Bangladesh, just as in Pakistan, the democratically elected secular government was replaced with a Sunni Islamic dictatorship through a military coup. In 1977 General Zia Rahman of the pro-Pakistan pro-Islam Bangladesh National Party (BNP) assumed the presidency and wrote Islam into the Constitution. In 1981 Zia was assassinated during a failed military coup. Islam was declared the official state religion in 1988.
In 1991 the BNP's Begum Khaleda Zia, widow of President Zia Rahman, became prime minister and amended the Constitution to render the position of president ceremonial. In 1996 the Awami League won the elections and Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, became prime minister. In October 2001, a BNP-led coalition that included hardline pro-Sharia Islamic parties won the elections on a pro-Islam, anti-West platform that protested America's bombing of Afghanistan and use of Pakistan as a military base. Over the next five years Islamic terror and civil unrest escalated until a state of emergency was declared and the January 2007 elections were postponed. Bangladeshis will now go to the polls on 29 December 2008.
Once again the elections will pit the pro-Pakistan, pro-Islam BNP against the secular Awami League. These elections are pivotal for Bangladesh's future. The terrorist outfit Jama'at-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) has been issuing death threats against commentators and Awami League ministers who have spoken out against the Islamic agenda. JMB -- which has reportedly spent the last almost two years of emergency rule regrouping -- has also declared jihad against the secular judiciary, the media and 'the evil system' of democracy. If the BNP coalition can win political power then the Islamic parties will act fast to further consolidate Islam. One of these Islamic parties -- the Jamaat-e-Islami -- has promised to enact a blasphemy law and provide military training for madrassa students. If the Islamic parties fail to win political power then Islamic militants will doubtless react and seek to discredit, destabilise and bring down the elected government through terrorism. Security is being tightened across the state to prevent a JMB terror campaign from threatening the elections themselves. Tensions are escalating.
Please put the election date, 29 December, in your diary and pray for Bangladesh, where the Church -- which is active and growing despite persecution -- still comprises less than one percent of the population.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
* the Holy Spirit to draw the Bangladeshi Church into prayer and deepen and strengthen her faith.
* God's wisdom and direction for the Church and civic Christian leadership, that they will lead in accordance with his will.
* Christ to enlighten the minds of Bangladeshis to the repressiveness and danger of political Islam; may their hearts long for liberty and equity in a secular state.
* God, with his heavenly forces, to intervene against Islamic terrorists and politicians who would turn Bangladesh into a repressive, conflict-wracked, Sharia state; may he frustrate the way of the wicked (Psalm 146:9).
'Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.' (Psalm 124:8 ESV)
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE -----------------------------------------------------------
ISLAMIC THREATS TO BANGLADESHI PIVOTAL ELECTIONS
Politics in Bangladesh is a perpetual struggle between the secular Awami League, which led Bangladesh to its liberation from Pakistan, and the pro-Pakistan, pro-Islam Bangladesh National Party (BNP). Whilst the Awami League clearly won the 1971 elections, the BNP took power in 1975 after an assassination and military coup. In 1996 the Awami League was democratically re-elected. However in October 2001 the BNP, in coalition with several hard-line pro- Sharia parties, regained power on a platform of Islamic solidarity with Afghanistan and anger over America's use of Pakistan as a military base. Terrorism escalated and the January 2007 elections were postponed. They will now be held on 29 December 2008, with Islamic militants threatening terror. These elections are pivotal for Bangladesh, where Christians comprise less than one percent. Please pray.
Please send this RLP to others, with attribution to World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Prayer List <[email protected]> ----------------------------------------------------
The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray specifically and regularly for religious liberty issues, and in particular to uphold the Church where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC. Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.
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