Abu* blurted in Pastor Badrul’s face, “How is it possible for a human to be God?”
Abu was a Rohingya Orthodox Muslim living in Myanmar. He was comfortable with his faith and considered Jesus a prophet.
Pastor Badrul was telling Abu that Jesus came to earth as a man and was God.
It didn’t make sense to Abu, so he questioned Badrul further. “I have practiced all the Muslim rituals; why would I need a Savior?”
Badrul explained about sin and Abu’s need for a Redeemer, but he wasn’t quite getting through.
Abu’s real answer came later in a dream, where Jesus appeared to him and said, “I died for your sins; you are mine.” He accepted Christ, was baptized, and began attending church regularly.
In Myanmar, anyone who doesn’t fall into the category of being Buddhist and ethnic Burmese is considered second-class and persecuted. Both Rohingya Muslims and Christians receive this treatment. However, Abu’s Muslim neighbors considered themselves better than Christians, so Abu endured verbal and physical abuse after he began following Jesus.
Abu endured, but when Burmese soldiers began torturing the Rohingya, it was time to leave. Abu risked everything and escaped across the border with his family to the huge refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, which has the fourth-largest Muslim population in the world.
Searching for Christians in the midst of Islam
Bangladesh is 90% Muslim, so most Rohingya felt some familiarity. It was different for Abu.
He desperately searched for other Christians in the camp. His search led him to Isa-e Church, established by Mabud Chowdury, who knows the Rohingya language and the culture. Wanting to learn more, Abu completed the one-year course at Chowdury’s Isa-e Theological Institute and was ready to witness to his fellow Rohingyas in the camp. That was not as easy as he thought.
Christians were not welcomed in the majority-Muslim camp. Upon discovering Abu was Christian, Orthodox Muslims captured him and beat him mercilessly. They trumped up blasphemy charges and contacted local news reporters to cover the story. He was thrown in jail several times because of his faith. However, the training he received at the institute helped him to stand and show the light of Jesus. Eventually he was released, and his attackers moved on to someone else.
Other Rohingyas followed
Today the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar has 32 sections and contains 1.2 million people, the vast majority of them Muslims like Abu once was. Mabud, Isa-e Church, and Rohingya believers like Abu have started 27 house churches among the Rohingyas, shepherding 350 families and 1,500 believers. Twenty-six other Rohingya pastors followed Abu by getting degrees from the Theological Institute, and each is bringing Muslim Rohingyas to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
After years of waiting and praying, Mabud bought land near Cox’s Bazaar and has constructed a training center with 50 guest rooms. Now he can train and disciple 50 people at a time from the camp. Students live together in the center, learning and developing confidence and passion for their mission. Besides biblical training, the center will be a hub for literacy programs, sewing instruction, women’s ministry, health-based education, social activities, and children’s events for camp residents.
Mabud, Abu, and their growing team look at this refugee dilemma as an opportunity and are moving forward one step at a time — one soul at a time.
We just learned from Mabud of a new attack against Christians in the refugee camp: “Believers at a camp in Cox’s Bazaar were attacked by a fundamentalist Rohingya group. Three pastors are badly injured, and three family members were hospitalized. A pastor and his daughter are missing.”
Please pray for these families.
*Names changed for security reasons