Bangladesh experienced ‘the deadliest election violence in the country’s history’ ahead of the poll which took place on Sunday 5 January.
News website, Al Jazeera, has reported that over 26 people have died in protests against the elections that were boycotted by the opposition. The controversial new parliament has been sworn in today (Thursday 9 January).
Andrew and Gwen Millns are serving with BMS in Bangladesh, working with our partner, Bangladesh Baptist Church Sangha. Andrew says following the election, the situation continues to be “very tense and uncertain.”
“Many Bangladeshis we know are growing more and more concerned about the future,” says Andrew. “The violence, blockade and hartals (strikes), coupled with the political standoff between the two main parties, is having a serious impact on the economy and may result in overseas investors looking elsewhere, especially in the garment industry.
“There have been many deaths over recent weeks and they include several innocent people, some of whom were on a bus which was burnt, attacked whilst making their way to a polling station or simply trying to go about their daily routine. Many more have been injured and you cannot fully estimate the impact all this will have on the poorest members of society. Of deep concern are the attacks on the minority Hindu communities in different parts of the country.
“We are having to be careful about travelling within Dhaka and for the time being going out of Dhaka is really out of the question.
“We are taking each day as it comes, listening closely to the news and keeping in touch with other foreign workers. We can buy food OK, the power cuts are no more than usual and we have phone and internet use. What is difficult is the degree of uncertainty about the next weeks and months, it really does impact upon you and is disturbing.”
What happens next will be determined by the resolve of the opposition and whether the new government can get international recognition. Despite the upheaval, the Bangladeshi people are coping very well so far.
“You cannot fail to be impressed by the resilience of the Bangladeshi people, especially those who earn very little,” says Andrew. “Despite all the difficulties they often show a remarkable degree of perseverance and are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure their families are provided for. When you see the lengths they will go to earn a meagre amount, then we must, for their sakes, keep hoping and praying for a speedy resolution to these testing times.”
Pray for dialogue between the political parties in Bangladesh that will lead to a more stable political outcome, for a speedy and determined response against those who attack minority groups, and that the Christian Church will be strong in its hope and courageous as it seeks to speak into the situation.