WHAT IS EASTERN SOUTH ASIA LIKE?
The Muslims living in Eastern South Asia, which surrounds the Bay of Bengal, number about 150 million in Bangladesh and another 150 million in Eastern India, Myanmar (Burma) (4.3% Muslim), and the Maldives (98.4% Muslim) combined.
Bangladesh has one of the densest populations in the world, and the Indian states of West Bengal (27% Muslim) and Bihar (17% Muslim) are the most densely populated states in India. Bengali-speaking peoples are the largest ethnic group in Eastern South Asia, and the majority of the 275 million are Muslim. The minority Muslim population of Myanmar, the Rohingya, are Bengalis who migrated to Myanmar from India during the British Raj from 1858-1947.
Millions in the region live in poverty. Much of the terrain is river flood plains nestled up against the Himalayas. Though most of the region is very flat and close to sea level, some parts are hilly and mountainous. Rich soil and plenty of rainfall makes the region a breadbasket. Many live as farmers, shopkeepers, garment makers, and traders.
WHAT ARE THE GREATEST STRUGGLES IN EASTERN SOUTH ASIA?
The biggest struggles across the region are economic, as countries struggle to keep pace with rapid population growth. In Bangladesh, where 87% are Muslims, the extreme crowding in heavily populated agricultural regions has led to a massive rural exodus as people flock to the cities in search of work and survival. Childhood malnutrition is considered the worst of any country in the world.
In India, the rise in Hindu nationalism has put pressure on the Muslim minority. There are regular flare ups of Hindu mob violence against Muslims. Though there are millions of Indian Muslims, many feel increasingly marginalized and are falling behind economically.
The Muslims in Myanmar (Burma) face unrelenting pressure from the Buddhist majority, with more than a million living in refugee camps in Eastern Bangladesh. In the Maldives, thriving tourism has [benefited] thousands, yet poverty is still an issue.
WHAT DOES ISLAM LOOK LIKE IN EASTERN SOUTH ASIA?
Most Muslims in the region are Sunnis, but a large percentage of them express devotion to saints and Sufi leaders. There are countless Sufi brotherhoods. In Bangladesh, the primary Muslim sects are Sunni, with a total of 5.3% being non-Sunni Muslims, mostly Shia and Ahmadiyya. In India, Shia Muslims are 25-30% of the Muslim population.
One remarkable expression of Muslim devotion in Bangladesh is the annual Bishwa Ijtema (Global Congregation) that brings 5 million devotees together for three days to pray and listen to Muslim preachers. This massive gathering on the outskirts of Dhaka draws Muslims from across Bangladesh and 150 other countries. It is the one of the largest annual gatherings of Muslims in the world, second only to the Hajj (pilgrimage) in Saudi Arabia.
In both India and Bangladesh, Muslims typically live harmoniously with Hindus. There is a high level of inter-religious socializing among the elite, and Hindu-Muslim marriages are common. However, in both countries, there is growing alarm at the increasingly successful efforts of Wahhabi Islamists promoting political, factional, and violent Islamism (imported from Saudi Arabia), that is similar to the influential home-grown Deobandi Islamism of 20% of India’s Muslims.
WHAT IS GOD DOING IN EASTERN SOUTH ASIA?
God is raising up a number of indigenous missions in India that are ministering among Muslims. Because of the strong pro-Hindu national government in India, there is very little social cost for Muslims who choose to follow Christ. Government officials in India do not usually persecute converts from Muslim backgrounds.
Muslims are coming to Christ across northeast India in a variety of church-planting ministries. House churches are multiplying among Muslims in West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh as well as the states surrounding Bangladesh in the northeast.
In Bangladesh, though the response to the Gospel in Dhaka appears quite limited, there are some large movements to Christ outside of the capital. Ever since a translation of the Bible into the Muslim-dialect Bengali was completed in 2000, there has been growing response to the Gospel. Some of these movements are remaining largely within their Muslim communities, whereas the believers in other movements more openly identify as Christians.
Roughly 300 million. That’s how many Muslims live in this relatively small region.
It’s one of the most densely populated places on Earth. The good news is that Jesus followers are multiplying in many parts of Eastern South Asia. The bad news is that the vast majority have still never heard that God loves them and came Himself to bring new life.
Bangladesh… Myanmar (Burma)… Eastern India… the island nation of Maldives… Not one village or city block is beyond God’s reach. The grip of hopelessness and fear is great. But Jesus’ power to set free is greater! Only He can do it. And so we pray.
- Pray for access to the Injil (New Testament) in their own language.
- Pray for whole families and communities to hear the Gospel and turn to Jesus together.
- Pray for multiplying movements of God among Bengali Muslims
We continue to pray for,
- Leah Sharibu and Alice, both held captive by the Boko Haram.
- For Pastor Wanh Yi from China, who has been sentenced to 9 years in prison for sharing boldly the love of God.
- For Anita, a Christian convert recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for sharing the Gospel in Iran.
“Our prayers do have an impact on the things of eternity and the souls of men and women to find truth in him who is the Living Word. Please join us on the prayer conference call to lift prayers up together. As ever, I remain your brother and prayer partner in our Lord Jesus. Meet you on the call!
If you are unable to participate on the call, or cannot join us on a particular evening, you can still use the prayer points and pray in your personal prayer closet. The only thing I would urge you is, please do it. Whether you pray privately, in a group, or on our call, please pray for a great harvest of souls during this time of Ramadan.” – Blaine Scogin, Founder of Persecution Watch and former Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted.
As Blaine Scogin did each year, the team will continue to host nightly calls during Ramadan. We will be following along with the Prayercast Team’s platform in praying for Muslims for the next 30 days, which began on April 24. Please sign up here to receive the daily video and prayer points from Prayercast which we will cover on the nightly prayer conference calls. If you have yet to do so, it’s not to late. Dear brothers and sisters, we challenge you to join us on the conference call to pray with us during these 30 nights of prayer for the persecuted, the harvest, and for Muslims to come out of the dark, receive the truth and follow Jesus.
Voice of the Persecuted and the Persecution Watch Team
Nightly call schedule through Ramadan
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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.
On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.
Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!
NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers. Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. Since the passing of Brother Blaine Scogin, we thank you for your patience as we have transitioned into this new season. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.
Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.