Expanded PDF Profile
Introduction / History
The so-called Biharis are Muslims who originated from different ethno-linguistic groups in Bihar and neighboring States of British India. Following communal riots during and after the partition of the Indian Subcontinent hundreds of thousands of Urdu-speaking Muslims migrated from Bihar and other Indian States to East Pakistan. When the nationalist movement of the Bengalis led to the War of Independence, the Biharis sided with Pakistan and shared in the war crimes against millions of Bengali civilians. After the war they became victims of revenge and were gathered by the Red Cross (ICCRC) into 66 Relief camps to await repatriation to Pakistan. Until 1982 approximately 200,000 "stranded Pakistanis" were expatriated until internal ethnic conflicts caused Pakistan to refuse to accept any more Bihari migrants. In spite of many promises by different Pakistani governments Biharis remained stateless in Bangladesh. The 66 former relief camps have evolved into urban slum communities where each family occupies a 6x6 sq ft. room. The congested housing situation, lack of sanitation and potable water causes many health problems. Poverty, hopelessness and social deterioration have made the camps a breeding ground for crime.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Traditionally Biharis have been respected as skilled, hard workers. Children are expected to learn a trade at a young age to contribute to the family income and to stay away from unsupervised play. Due to lack of employment opportunities, many Biharis run micro-enterprises. They operate small auto repair and electrical shops or work as metal workers, drivers, rickshaw pullers, weavers or barbers. Still bearing the stigma as traitors, the younger generation is slowly coming to the realization that they will have to stay in Bangladesh. In 2007 the interim government granted voting rights and citizenship to Biharis who were minors during the 71 war or born later. While this a positive change the future development of the Biharis camps remain uncertain.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Bihari people in Bangladesh are Sunni Muslims who believe that the supreme God, Allah, spoke through his prophet, Mohammed, and taught mankind how to live a righteous life through the Koran and the Hadith. To live a righteous life, you must utter the Shahada (a statement of faith), pray five times a day facing Mecca, fast from sunup to sundown during the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca if you have the means. Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, stealing, slandering, and making idols. They gather for corporate prayer on Friday afternoons at a mosque, their place of worship. The two main holidays for Sunni Muslims are Eid al Fitr, the breaking of the monthly fast and Eid al Adha, the celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah. Sunni religious practices are staid and simple. They believe that Allah has pre-determined our fates; they minimize free will. In most of the Muslim world, people depend on the spirit world for their daily needs since they regard Allah as too distant. Allah may determine their eternal salvation, but the spirits determine how well we live in our daily lives. For that reason, they must appease the spirits. They often use charms and amulets to help them with spiritual forces.
What Are Their Needs?
The Biharis need to submit to Jesus Christ so they can experience the abundant life he offers them in John 10:10.
Pray for the Lord to provide for their physical and spiritual needs as a testimony of his power and love. Pray that the Bihari people will have a spiritual hunger that will open their hearts to the King of kings. Pray for workers who are driven by the love and boldness of the Holy Spirit to go to them. Pray for a movement to Christ among them to begin this decade.
Scripture Prayers for the Bihari (Muslim traditions) in Bangladesh.