by Brother K

I have spent quite a bit of time over the past 10 years working with indigenous missions in the Bengali homeland. This region includes the country of Bangladesh, and the Indian states of Tripura and West Bengal. According to Operation World the Bengali constitute the largest Unreached People Group (UPG), numbering around 250 million. A common definition of a UPG is that it is an ethnolinguistic group with an Evangelical population of less than two percent.

In May our Canadian office hosted Daniel Shayan, a mission leader from India, who works to reach Muslims in India with the Gospel. Many Muslims whom Daniel is sharing Christ with are Bengali. As I listened to him share his testimony of coming to faith in Christ (which included how he moved from Pakistan to India), it finally dawned on me to ask him a question about the Bengali.

Before I let you know the question I asked, I'll offer a bit more background first.

Daniel and his family traveled on a holiday from West Pakistan in early 1971 to visit an uncle who was living in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). About a month after arriving there, the violent independence war broke out and Daniel and several family members found shelter in a Red Cross refugee camp.

Eventually they were able to leave Bangladesh and travel to Kolkata in India to live with another Uncle. Several members of Daniel's family were killed in the war. Bitter animosity between the two groups intensified. This mutual hatred endures until today. In my trips to Bangladesh I have heard many times of the Bengali hatred of the Pakistani. I had not thought much about how the Pakistani felt about the Bangladeshi, especially those who were living in East Pakistan and were directly affected by the independence war.

"Daniel," I asked. "You speak of your ministry among the Bengali; how did you feel about the Bengali people when some of your family members were killed?" "We hated them," he began. "For many years I intensely despised them."

"What changed?" I continued, "What did Christ do in your life to change your heart? Clearly now you demonstrate a love for them as you talk about sharing the Gospel with them."

His answer was direct, simple, and profoundly Gospel centered. He said, "Christ had compassion on me; how could I not also show compassion to them?" Daniel spoke so naturally of how Christ's work in his life was the source of his changed heart. This, brothers and sisters, is what marks the Church. We are sinners who have tasted of God's kindness in Christ. Jesus has given all for us; how could we not, in response to receiving his kindness and our offering of gratitude, spend our lives in treating others the way we have been treated in Christ?

posted on August 15, 2018
Advancing Indigenous Missions 2018