We are one of the oldest mainline churches in Bangladesh, which has contributed immensely to shaping people’s lives before independence and till now. The church is known for its input in the area of education, health and socio-economic development of the post-liberation war victims. The church is continuing its support as the new challenges of the empire are threatening the present generation along with Climate justice.
The church has been witnessing Christ in a multi-faith context for the last fifty-five years and more. We are witnessing Christ among 90% Muslims, 8% Hindus and 1.5% Buddhist and other ethnic religious people. Our congregations are scattered all over the Bangladesh. These congregations are from different ethnic groups like Bengali, Garo, Santali, Hazong, Chakma, and Tripura. Hence, the congregations in different parts are different from one another in culture and traditions. Another interesting part of the Church of Bangladesh is its different church traditions so that helps us to understand the universality of CHURCH.
The church has heritage buildings which have the most amazing architecture and are ecofriendly. It has Anglican brothers and sisters who are following the tradition and encouraging people to live in faith.
Our church is based in Bangladesh, we are surrounded by India and in the South, the Bay of Bengal. It is in South Asia.
Historically Bangladesh was with undivided India but after the partition in 1947, Bangladesh was under Pakistan and was known as East Pakistan. During that time, the Church of Bangladesh was with CIPBC (Churches in India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon). On 1st November 1970, the Pakistan Church was formed with Pakistan Anglican Church, Pakistan United Church, Pakistan Methodist Church and Pakistan Lutheran Church. At that time, we had the Dhaka diocese in East Pakistan. In 1971, after the liberation war, the country was freed from Pakistan and Bangladesh became an independent country. The church of Bangladesh remained under the Pakistan church.
On 30th April 1974, the Synod of Pakistan Church decided and approved Church of Bangladesh as a free and new independent church. In 1975 the Church of Bangladesh started its journey with its new constitution and with its first diocese Dhaka, which already existed. Then in 1990 the second diocese Kushtia diocese and in 2017, the third diocese came into being.
The pioneers are Bishop James Blair, Bishop Barnabas D. Mondal (first Bengali Bishop), Rev. P. K. Baroi (Presbyter, English Presbyterian Church, Rajshahi), Mr. Chunka Hansda, Rev. Shalku Murmu, Bishop Michael S. Baroi (First Bishop of Kushtia Diocese), Bishop Paul S. Sarker (Present Moderator), Bishop Samuel S. Mankhin (First Bishop from Ethnic <Garo> community), Bishop Shourabh Pholia (First Bishop of Barisal diocese), Fr. Lionel Rigby, Fr. Patrick Carleton, Fr. Mohendra Chandra Chatarjee, Mother Sushila, Sr. Usha, Mr. Biren Dio, Rev. Timothy Rema.
Notable contributions to/from CWM
The church has had a relationship with CWM since the 1980s. We are happy to be a member of CWM. As a member, we have relationships with many other churches around the world. CWM gives us an opportunity to share our experiences and resources with others as well.
CWM has contributed a lot to us especially in capacity building for youth and women, our education program, theological trainings, church and community mobilization and so on.
Active partnerships with CWM member churches
We have close relationships with CNI and CSI. CWM provides us with an opportunity to share, to have fellowship and to pray together.
Mission programs/ministries of the Church
The church has its mission to witness Christ in Bangladesh. Therefore, we are sharing the Word of God with people and many are receiving Christ as their Saviour. To share the love of God, we have social development programmes. Though our Government is trying its best to provide education, many are still not getting the opportunity for it and so, the church has extended its helping hand to provide education in very rural areas.
The church is providing healthcare for the marginalized people. We have two hospitals – one in an urban area (Rajshahi) and one in a rural area (Bollovpur). Both are serving the community and sharing Christ’s care for poor people. It is challenging to be self-supporting as we have to subsidise their treatment.
Along with these two, there are several clinics and mobile clinics to provide care for the needy people in very rural areas in Bangladesh. Under Rajshahi Mission Hospital we have a Nursing Training Institute, where many men and women have opportunities to build up their lives and commit themselves to serve people in various hospitals and clinics all over the country.
In Bangladesh, unemployment is a challenge, so the church tries to respond and develop young people by providing them with technical education through our Christ Church Trade School (CCTS). Now, those who have attended the courses provided by the CCTS are all employed and earning for their families and contributing the society and nation.
We have children, youth and women ministry in every congregation. Children are having Sunday School regularly, youth are gathering weekly and monthly for fellowship and Bible study, and women are very regular in prayer meeting and fellowship every week. Due to competition in education, it is often very difficult to get young people in church activities and even in church services (especially in urban areas). We are happy to have our youth who are coming to church services and involving in church activities though they are facing challenges.
Due to our evangelical work, the church is growing especially in North and North East of Bangladesh. People are accepting Christ and new churches are emerging. The new diocese also planned to share the good news with people in the Satkhira and Khulna district.
Through the Nursing Institute, many have been trained and women have especially been empowered. There is a village which has developed economically because most of their daughters have received training and are now working in different hospitals and clinics in the cities. As they are earning members of their families, they play an active role in their family’s decision making. They are self-supporting, which gives them self-confidence and self-respect.
Many young boys have been trained from CCTS where they have been trained in technical fields and all of them are now earning for their families.
Our community is struggling with poverty, insufficient opportunity for education, and high population growth, so unemployment is impacting youth. With the rise of fundamentalism and globalization in a pluralistic society, living in peace and harmony is needed.
Christians in Bangladesh make up 0.5% of the total population, and sustainability is a challenge for us. Many local congregations are not strong enough to support their continuing ministries yet, as they were dependent on church institutions which were created by missionaries and early church leaders.
We face natural disasters like flood, draught, cyclone, and water logging every year. These natural disasters are a setback to people working hard to improve their lives and change their socio-economic status. Climate change is another challenge, as people are migrating from their own land since lands are going under water and salinity is increasing and so on.
The future plan is to make the church sustainable. Women will be empowered, children will have safe upbringing, youth will be educated and active in church, will try to raise funds for the institutions which are contributing to our society for socio-economic development. Along with that we will try to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours, we will share the Word of God with them as well to show the life, light and truth of Jesus Christ.
Concerns for church and society
My concern is for the church to be mobilized and equipped with the capacity to respond to issues which the community faces in their daily lives.
We would like to have a dynamic church, where every member, child and adult will be active and involved in its mission and ministry to fulfil its vision.
Please pray, so that our dreams can be fulfilled. Let the Spirit of God lead us and give us wisdom. Let the love of God encourage us to share His love with all. Let Christ live in us so that we can witness Him in this world. Please continue to pray for our needs and for our ministries so God can provide them through His beloved ones.