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Bangladesh Baptists Assisting Flood Victims

Baptists in Bangladesh are working to relieve suffering caused by the nation’s worst flooding in six years.

Mid-July floods left an estimated two-thirds of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Bangladesh underwater. The death toll on Monday rose to 628, The New Nation newspaperin Bangladesh reported Tuesday.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
While waters are starting to recede, the United Nations estimated that up to 30 million people would need food aid for up to five months, according to Channel News Asia in Singapore.
 
UNICEF reported an “exceptionally high” number of flood victims suffering from pneumonia, and water-borne diseases like diarrhea are expected to remain a chronic problem.
 
The Baptist World Alliance has committed $20,000 so far for programs started by two Baptist groups in Bangladesh, said Paul Montacute of Baptist World Aid, the BWA’s relief and development arm.
 
Christians of any kind are a small minority in the secular state, which is 87 percent Muslim and 11 percent Hindu.
 
Both the Bangladesh Baptist Church Sangha’s Social Health & Education Development (SHED) board and Baptist Aid Bangladesh, an arm of the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship, have started programs to help victims of the catastrophic floods, Montacute said.
 
Baptists from Bangladesh talked about the tragedy and their churches’ response at meetings last week of the BWA General Council in Seoul, South Korea.
 
While Bangladesh prepares for annual monsoon rains, the flooding this year is the worst since 1998, the worst ever.
 
“In such a crowded and low-lying country, with many millions living below the flood plain, floods are to be expected, but this tragedy is far worse than many in recent years,” Montacute said. “I hope that the Baptist family around the world will respond to the cries for help from their fellow Baptists in Bangladesh.”
 
BWA is soliciting donations to BWAid’s “Asian flood fund.”
 
The Bangladesh Baptist Church Sangha is comprised of 324 churches with 15,000 members, according to BWA member statistics. SHED is the group’s service arm, working with the poor, helpless and destitute to raise the social and economic status regardless of caste or creed. While Bangladesh does not officially recognize the caste system, its effects linger among Hindu peoples.
 
The Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship reports more churches, 445, but a smaller membership, 12,420.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
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