RLPB 393. Bangladesh: Hidden Genocide in Chittagong Hill Tracts
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 393 | Wed 08 Feb 2017
BANGLADESH: HIDDEN GENOCIDE IN CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS
plus: Jakarta Gubernatorial Elections on Wednesday 15 February
by Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
On 1 January police raided a hotel in Bandarban district town in eastern Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The raid was launched in response to a tip-off and resulted in four indigenous children being rescued from the clutches of a criminal child trafficking ring. Two traffickers, Abu Babar and Md Hossain, were arrested, whilst their accomplice, Sumon Kheyang, escaped. Over the past seven years police have rescued 72 children from the clutches of this child trafficking ring but it is unknown how many children remain missing. The operation is run by Bengali Islamic fundamentalists. Their modus operandi generally involve recruiting members of indigenous hill tribe communities who then go door-to-door offering to take poor indigenous children to Dhaka and provide them with an education that will improve their prospects in life. Once in the clutches of the traffickers, the children are delivered to Islamic madrassas around the country where they are forcibly Islamised and indoctrinated, all without their parents’ knowledge or consent. As horrific as this is, child trafficking for the purpose of forced Islamisation is but one of many crimes being committed in CHT.
Around 95 percent of Bangladeshis are ethnic Bengali, of whom around 90 percent are Muslim and 10 percent Hindu. Between one and two percent of Bangladeshis belong to the 12 tribes indigenous to the steep, green, resource-rich Chittagong Hills. Known as Paharis (from pahar meaning ‘hill’), they are mostly Buddhist. However, Christianity is well established, growing and widely respected amongst the indigenes for its attention to education, health and human rights.
Whilst the Paharis were marginalised under British colonial rule, their problems began in earnest in 1947 with the partition of British India. Despite being only between three and five percent Muslim, and though the Paharis of the CHT have more in common with their neighbours in eastern India than with Bengali Muslims, the CHT was ‘awarded’ to Pakistan. Massive exploitation and displacement followed. Consequently, when Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) won its independence in 1971, Pahari leaders immediately requested regional autonomy for CHT within Bangladesh and a ban on Bengali Muslim migration into the region. The request was denied. Instead, the government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ordered the tribes to adopt Bengali identity, something they were unwilling to do. In response, the government began facilitating the mass migration of Bengali Muslims into CHT. Tensions soared, an insurgency erupted and in 1977 the Bangladesh Army (which is almost exclusively Bengali Muslim) flooded into CHT. While a ‘Peace Accord’ was signed in 1997, virtually nothing has been implemented and the predatory mass migration continues, as do gross human rights abuses.
Today, CHT — now Bangladesh’s most militarised region — is majority Bengali Muslim. Local indigenous women and children are raped, gang-raped, assaulted, tortured and murdered with impunity; while land theft, forced Islamisation, forced marriage and child trafficking are commonplace. Not only is the region closed to foreigners, Paharis are banned from even speaking to outsiders. In recent years, Islamic fundamentalists have escalated their anti-Christian rhetoric, accusing churches and Christian missionaries of being in the pay of foreign forces that want the Paharis converted so they can be recruited as separatists. This is a developing and exceptionally dangerous situation.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
* the Lord to intervene on behalf of his vulnerable and gravely imperilled children in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hills Tracts (CHT). May regional autonomy with freedom and security become a reality, for the sake of the Church and all those in need of her ministry and message.
* God to frustrate the plans of the Bangladeshi government and military, the Muslim Bengali nationalists and Bangladesh’s increasingly influential and dangerous Islamic fundamentalists; may the transmigration of Bengali Muslims in the CHT be not merely halted but reversed and all the plans to Islamise the region come to nothing.
‘The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.’ (Psalm 33:10, 22 ESV)
* a spiritual breakthrough in Bangladesh; may Islam’s spirit of deception be vanquished so that eyes and minds and hearts might be opened to receive the Gospel. ‘God’s cause will triumph.’ (William Carey, pioneer missionary to the Bengali.)
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
HIDDEN GENOCIDE IN THE CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS IN BANGLADESH
Some 95 percent of Bangladeshis are ethnic Bengali (90 percent Muslim, 10 percent Hindu). One to two percent of Bangladeshis belong to tribes indigenous to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). Whilst the tribes are mostly Buddhist, Christianity is well established, growing and respected. When British India was partitioned in 1947, the CHT was ‘awarded’ to Pakistan, despite being only three to five percent Muslim and despite the indigenes having more in common with their neighbours in eastern India. Today, due to government-driven, military-facilitated transmigration, CHT — now Bangladesh’s most militarised region — is majority Bengali Muslim. The region is closed to foreigners. Human rights abuses including rape, torture, murder, land theft and forced Islamisation are rife. It is a hidden genocide. Please pray for Bangladesh and the Church in CHT.
ALSO: please watch and pray concerning Jakarta’s gubernatorial elections, to be held on Wednesday 15 February. Polls taken at the end of January show the ethnic Chinese and Christian incumbent, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama, still leading the other two candidates. Pray for free, fair and peaceful polls and that the Lord will preserve Ahok’s life and liberty.