Rebuilding the violently evicted Christian community in Bangladesh
Providing new homes after police set fire to shacks and shot at exploited minority
Police in riot gear march into a desperately poor community of Christian Santal people in Bangladesh. Firing rubber bullets as they go, the police forcefully evict the Christians, and then, helped by local Muslims, set fire to the wooden shacks in which the Christians live.
Leaving their meagre possessions behind, the families flee into the night, while their homes continue to burn.
This is what happened among the Santal ethnic group in Gaibandah District, Bangladesh, on 6 November, 2016. Three Christians died in the attack, others were injured and 5,500-6,000 people were made homeless.
As Hopan Murmu and his family fled the flames and bullets, he was shot in the right leg. The local tribal people took him to hospital and, by God’s grace, he survived. But Hopan’s home was burned to the ground.
For more than a year, Hopan, his wife, their daughter and two sons lived in a plastic makeshift tent. Due to his extreme poverty he had no hope of ever re-building his home.
When Barnabas Fund’s local project partners in Bangladesh told Hopan, who still uses a crutch, that he would soon have a solid brick-built home, he cried with joy.
He explained that he had thought he would never live in a real house again. He never dreamt he would even have the access to clean water and a proper toilet he now has, with the shared tube wells and toilets of the new development.
“I have been persecuted, I have lost my house, I have become helpless,” said Hopan as he tried to express his thankfulness for his new home. “But through Barnabas Fund I have been shown the love of God.” He was thrilled to think that his future grandsons and granddaughters will also have clean drinking water and even an opportunity to go to school, as the project includes renovating an abandoned school room.
Dijen Tadu was badly injured by a bullet in his chest on that dreadful night in November 2016. He was expected to die, but God saved his life. After three months of hospital treatment in Dhaka he came back to his village. He literally had nothing – no land, no house.
When Dijen showed Barnabas partners the scars of his terrible injuries, the extent of his persecution hit home and they were deeply saddened. Dijen was overwhelmed when he learned “by the grace of God Barnabas Fund will build a house” for him.
“Every day when work was progressing I came to see,” said Dijen. “I prayed and waited … I saw a small light that is from Jesus Christ that I will get a place to live.”
In April, his prayers were answered and his house was finished. “Now I have a real place to live. Not only that, now we have a good toilet, school for children and church nearby so we can worship. I don’t know where this money came from, but I bless them who helped me and my children.”
After the community in Gaibandah were driven from their homes in November 2016, the land they had lived on since it was given to them by the British in 1928 was seized to cultivate sugar cane for local government factories.
Barnabas Fund has already helped the local church purchase new land and complete the first phase of building 50 simple one-room brick homes.
Hopan, Dijen and 48 other of the neediest evicted families are now living in these houses.
Phase two of the project has commenced, which will provide a further 50 houses plus six tube wells and twelve latrines. The cost for one house is just $1,818. A tube well with hand pump costs $120 and a toilet costs $33.
There has been a Christian presence amongst the Santal ethnic group since at least 1867, when the first Santal church was built. For many years they have suffered exploitation and injustice from the Muslim-majority Bengalis.
The Santal Christians are very poor and have had little opportunity of education. Your gift can transform their lives.More