Do you like Bangladesh? … Over and over citizens of Bangladesh ask this question to visitors of this land of rivers. The answer is a difficult one … What can you say? How will you feel after being in the country for more than a day? Explore briefly the country of Bangladesh and its people. After learning more, what will you say?
Water … water … water covering the land. If you live in Bangladesh, you live on a river, lake, or pond. Water dominates the life and culture of Bangladesh. 6-1/2 % of the land mass is river ways but during the peak of the monsoon season up to 70% of the land is covered with water. Bangladesh is about the size of Arkansas but the total water flow through the country is twice that of the Mississippi River. The river system flowing through Bangladesh is the third largest in the world.
The river is the center of life in this country of 130 million people. The waterways are used to transport people and produce in hand powered as well as diesel-powered crafts. The river provides a place for the people to bathe and while bathing many do their laundry. The river is frequently used as a trash can…waiting for the next flood to wash it down stream. The annual flooding of rivers replenishes much-needed nutrients in the soil.
Bangladesh is a fertile delta and almost totally void of rocks. Rocks for building roads or house foundations must be laboriously chiseled from hand-made bricks. River silt makes excellent bricks and huge kilns located on or near the river are common. Ponds for growing fish, eels, and shrimp are an important source of income. A visit to the wholesale fish market gives a quick view of the variety of aquatic fare grown in these ponds and caught in the rivers.
The fertile soil and year-round growing season provides for a bountiful harvest of fruits, vegetables, small grains, and sugarcane as well as jute for fibers. Farming methods are primitive, and require a significant amount of labor. Occasionally a small diesel powered tractor is used for tilling the soil.
The only hilly part of the country is in the Northeast and the Southeast corners. In the Chittagong Hill Tracks, people live in small bamboo homes constructed on the steep slopes or the ridges of the many hills. While some of these people, … known as the Tribals, … live along a river, most live in hard to reach places that can be accessed only by foot. Most of the Tribals speak a language different than the Bengali majority. They are an oppressed minority and feel as if they are a lost and forgotten people.
The history and culture of Bangladesh extends to medieval times. However, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a young country, established in 1971. … A country born amidst chaos; … shattered by war, famine, and floods … a country with a ruined economy and a totally disrupted communication system.
The National Martyr’s Monument is an hour’s bus ride from Dhaka. The memorial honors the tens of thousands who died in the bloody fight for freedom and to the Bangladeshi visitor it has a surreal setting. Mass graves of these martyrs are beneath the well-manicured lawns. A huge monument towers toward the sky as it reflects on this fight for freedom.
Today, … Bangladesh remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The average income is little more than a dollar a day for hard, … backbreaking work. Jobs are difficult to find. With a jobless rate of 40% many are forced to peddle or push a rickshaw for scant wages. There are an estimated 600,000 rickshaws in the capitol city of Dhaka. Others find work on farms, making furniture or driving one of the many battle-scarred busses or mini taxis. The growing garment industry employs millions for the laborious task of cutting and sewing for minimal wages. Some of the small tribal villages specialize in weaving cloth on wooden, hand and foot powered looms. At the bottom of the economic scale are those who break up bricks to make gravel for road construction or the women who squeeze cow manure onto long wooden sticks. The manure is set in the sun to dry so it can then be used as a convenient fuel for cooking stoves.
The kitchens are tiny and usually located separate from that of the home because of the ever-present danger from the cooking fire. While the homes are very small, the families are large. Disease and sickness are major problems due to the poor sanitation, …contaminated drinking water, … and crowded living conditions.
Progress is stymied in improving the economy of the country when so much of the work is done by hand such as cleaning the street and laying of the asphalt in the city of Bondarbon. Yet, slowly, progress is being made in Bangladesh. Transportation is improving. Resurface work on the main highways is a continuing process, most of which is done by hand. Education is a high priority and children are eager to learn despite the crowded conditions and the depilated facilities.
A religious country, Bangladesh is 85% Muslim. This religious majority controls much of the political, economic, and social aspects of the country. Mosques can be seen along the road, in small towns, and in large cities, providing places of worship for over 110 million Muslims.
Nearly 14% … or about 15 million … in Bangladesh are Hindu. Temples are in most areas of the country … from Bandarban in the Southeast to Jessore in the West. The largest concentration of Hindus is in the West central part of the country near Jessore and Khulna.
Followers of Buddhism are few and primarily located in the hill tracks. These faithful few continue to hold to their traditional clothing and religious icons.
British evangelists and the Anglican Church introduced Christianity in the 1700’s. Yet, … Christian followers are few with less than one percent following Christian teachings. The First Anglican Church located in Old Town Dhaka was founded in 1791. The original building remains as does the graves of many of the Anglican Christians of the past. The 90 seat auditorium is still used for Sunday worship….but, mostly it is used as a museum.
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Because of the dominate Islamic influence, most women, … whether Muslim or not, … wear clothes that completely cover their body from neck to ankles. Form-fitting clothing is perceived as sexually suggestive. Many Muslim women also wear a head covering leaving only their eyes visible to the passerby.
Despite the high level of religious influence, the country is riddled with corruption. Bangladesh was rated as the most corrupt country in the world for 2001, 2002, and 2003. Examples of corruption are everywhere. This load of cattle was illegally shipped from India. It is illegal to dry vermicellia, a spaghetti like food,( It is illegal to dry the spaghetti like food known as vermicellia,) in the polluted air of the city. The use of wood to fire bricks in the kiln is prohibited; instead coal is to be used to reduce the deforestation of the country. Also the law requires a large smoke stack for the kilns in order to minimize the air pollution from the coal smoke. Bribes to officials allow practices like these to continue … but (however)… changes are taking place. Here along the river in Dhaka, the government is tearing down parts of buildings that were illegally constructed too close to the waterfront.
Change is occurring in the government,…. more importantly, … in order for Bangladesh to avoid the status of a poor, … corrupt … country, changes must occur in hearts and minds of the people. From the history of Bangladesh, it is evident that these changes will not come from the Islamic or the Hindu religious institutions. These religious groups, … like the rivers that flow through Bangladesh, … continue to control the country. But, … there are little islands of Christianity that can make a change in the hearts and minds of the people and, hopefully a change in the country.
Included in this DVD are several chapters of video that provide more information on the people and the culture of Bangladesh as well as how they are being reached for Christ.
Exciting things are happening …
· Churches are being planted
· Leaders are being trained
· More people are coming to Christ
· Humanitarian help is being provided
Do you like Bangladesh? As you look into the eyes of the Bangladeshi asking the question, what will you say? They expect an answer. What would Jesus say? You have the opportunity to become involved in what God is doing in Bangladesh. Will you know how to answer this question when you step out on mission with God in this far away land?
When you come you must remember that you will not be alone as this shoe cobbler appears, instead wherever you go people will gather around. While here consider the pride of these people who have such large burdens to bear. Realize that the question that they really want to ask is, “Do you like ME?”
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