Population: 11 million
“You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelations 5:9)
Dhaka has been called “the city of the 1,000 mosques”, but at the start of the 21st century the capital of Bangladesh has many more than 1,000 mosques. The region was first exposed to Hinduism and then to Buddhism. Muslim raiders introduced Islam to Bangladesh from North India in the tenth century and later by the Mughal (Mogul) rulers. Almost 90 per cent of the population today follows the Sunni and Sufi forms of Islam, which are dominated by ‘holy men’ and folk Islamic practices.
Dhaka is a busy centre of government and commerce and attracts students from all over the country. Recently identified as the world’s most polluted city, the government is struggling to manage the traffic and provide adequate housing facilities for its growing population of 11 million people. Non-governmental organisations try to help in the huge challenge of alleviating poverty. Bangladesh’s gross national product (GNP) per capita is still among the lowest in Asia, and the country depends heavily on foreign aid. Crime rates are rising and reports of hijacking, extortion, mob killings and murder can be read in the newspaper every day. Political violence is common, and rivalries between the political parties, coupled with corruption, hinder serious efforts to address the multiple problems.
Dhaka’s major waterfront called ‘Sadarghat’ is on the bank of the river Buriganga. This bustling waterfront reflects Bangladesh’s varied and widespread river traffic. It is crowded with all kinds of river craft, from minuscule boats to steamers and fishing boats.
Bihari Muslims of Dhaka, Bangladesh
Dhaka is also home for many Bihari Muslims. They fled the riots in the Indian State of Bihar after the partition of India in 1947. Favoured by the government of Pakistan, they sided with the West-Pakistani Army when the Bengalis in East Pakistan fought for their independence in 1971. After the war the new country of Bangladesh was born and the Urdu-speaking Biharis were seen as traitors. To escape from the revenge of the Bengalis they were gathered in refugee camps to await their repatriation to Pakistan. With the help of international relief organisations, half of them have been repatriated over the years, but 250,000-300,000 still remain in the 66 camps in Bangladesh. The Biharis in Bangladesh have a strong Muslim identity. Only a few secret believers exist among them.
Prayer for the Muslims in Dhaka, Bangladesh:
* Pray that the churches in Dhaka will be encouraged to reach out to those who have not yet heard the Good News despite the rising intimidation which they face.
* Pray for unity and mutual trust among the national churches and the Christian organisations working in the city.
* Pray for many church-planting teams to be established that will take on the challenge of reaching out to the vast Bengali Muslim population (including the Biharis).