3 Bangladesh


   Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan in 1971. The new nation declared itself an Islamic state in 1973, and in 1988 added a clause to the constitution making Islam the state religion. An attempt to evict all foreign missionaries in 1978 was stopped in the face of international pressure.
   The early Baptist effort in India, usually associated with William Carey (1761-1834), spread to Dinajpur, East Bengal, by 1795. By 1816, the church was established in Dacca, now Bangladesh's capital. Mass conversions took place around Mymensingh, among peoples who were neither Hindu nor Muslim. Baptists from Australia, Great Britain, the United States, and New Zealand have supported the work over the years, which has resulted in three denominations, the Baptist Sangha, the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship, and the Mymensingh Garo Baptist Convention.
   Soon after the Baptists, missionaries from the Church of England, British Presbyterians, and Lutherans of various national backgrounds arrived. The Lutheran work is now carried by the Bangladesh Evangelical Lutheran Church. Presbyterians and Anglicans united in the 1970s to become the Diocese of Dacca of the Church of Pakistan. After independence, the diocese reorganized as the Church of Bangladesh.
   Though a Muslim country, Bangladesh has been relatively open to Christian missionaries, and new missions have continued to arrive. Some relatively recent groups such as the German-based New Apostolic Church have built substantial followings.
   Pentecostalism came to Bangladesh after World War II. The Assemblies of God, with 15,000 members, is by far the largest Pentecostal fellowship, but the movement has produced a variety of smaller groupings and the Pentecostal message has spread into some of the older churches.
   Bangladesh is home to one of the most interesting christian movements in the world, the Messianic Mosques. similar to the Messianic Judaism movement in the West, believers accept Jesus as savior but refuse to leave Muslim culture or their Muslim families. They have developed a style of worship that resembles that of a mosque. There are an estimated 100,000 Messianic believers. some Western missionaries have tried to adopt a similar approach as a means of reaching Muslims.
   The church of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Baptist Sangha are members of the World Council of Churches. They have joined with other Bangladesh churches to form the Bangladesh National council of churches. other groups have formed the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh, affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance. In spite of two centuries of activity, the Protestant-Free Church community in Bangladesh constitutes less than 1 percent of the country's population.
   See also Asia; India; Pakistan.
   Further reading:
   ■ David Barrett, The Encyclopedia of World Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)
   ■ J. C. Hefley and M. Hefley, Christ in Bangladesh (London: Coverdale House, 1973)
   ■ J. Herbert Kane, A Global View of Christian Missions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1971)
   ■ G. Soddy, Baptists in Bangladesh: An Historical Sketch of More Than One Hundred Years' Work in the Baptist Missionary Society in Bengal (Khulna, Bangladesh: Literature Committee, National Council of Churches, Bangladesh, 1987).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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