Church and ecumenical leaders in Bangladesh share concerns over emerging trends in church and society

Posted on 19 March 2023

CCA Officers with Bangladesh Church leaders

Dhaka, Bangladesh: A representative group of church leaders from 21 member churches and nine associated member organisations affiliated with the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh (NCCB) expressed their concern and anguish over the highly precarious situation faced by Christians in Bangladesh. The group highlighted the fact that Christians are a very small minority in Bangladesh, and are therefore extremely vulnerable.

During an evening dialogue session, national church and ecumenical leaders gathered at the NCCB headquarters to speak with Asian church leaders who were present. The event was held in conjunction with the Executive Committee meeting of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA).

Bishop Sunil Manking, President of the NCCB and the moderator of the Church of Bangladesh (CoB), chaired the session.

Bangladeshi Christians make up less than half a percent of the country’s population, with around 600,000 living in the country. As a religious minority in a majority Islamic nation of over 170 million, they are particularly vulnerable and face existential threats on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, recent times have seen a sharp decline in, and endangering of, religious freedom in Bangladesh, with increased levels of violence directed against religious minorities. Despite its reputation as a liberal and tolerant society, Bangladesh today presents a scenario where violence against religious minorities has become more common. Christian places of worship have been attacked and vandalised, but these incidents are often dismissed as isolated events.

Despite political parties making a host of promises to improve the lives of religious minorities before each election, few notable efforts have been made over the decades to address the situation over the years. As a result, the quality of life of religious minorities in Bangladesh remains poor, with little hope for improvement in the near future.In some parts of the country, tribal Christians face ostracism and discrimination and they are being accused of carrying out religious conversions.

The Christians in Bangladesh are highly fragmented due to the multiplicity of Christian denominations. However, there are many new initiatives to strengthen ecclesial unity by enabling the Protestants, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical churches to come together on a common Christian platform.

Rev. David Doss, the General Secretary of the NCCB, shared examples of how the NCCB has been deeply engaged in promoting interfaith dialogue, peace-building, and HIV and AIDS advocacy initiatives.

Rev. John Probhudhan Hira, Joyantha Adhikari, Bishop Simon Biswas, and Augustine Karmakar participated in discussions on behalf of Bangladeshi churches.

Dr Mathews George Chunakara, the General Secretary of the CCA, explained the long-standing involvement and accompaniment of the global ecumenical movement in Bangladesh, dating back to the time of the Bangladeshi liberation war in the early 1970s, when various initiatives of ecumenical support were taken to provide emergency relief and rehabilitation with the coordination of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Dr Mathews George Chunakara also spoke about the role and contributions of the Asian ecumenical movement to accompany and support the churches in Bangladesh through the CCA, even when the country was still part of Pakistan and was formerly known as East Pakistan. He further acknowledged the important contributions made by Bangladeshi church leaders who were at the forefront of the Asian ecumenical movement ever since the founding of the CCA in 1957.

Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey, the Acting Moderator of CCA, expressed deep appreciation to the churches in Bangladesh for hosting the Executive Committee meeting of the CCA. The dialogue session evening concluded with cultural presentations and a fellowship dinner.

More photos can be found here.


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