Thousands of Muslims in Bangladesh reportedly converting to Christianity

Muslims offer Friday prayers in front of Baitul Mukarram, Bangladesh's national mosque. Even though 90 percent of the country's population is still Muslim, thousands have converted to Christianity over the past few years.Reuters

Christian persecution in Bangladesh hasn't waned, but surprisingly, the number of Muslims converting to Christianity in the South Asian country has been increasing over the years.

Around 90 percent of the country's 165 million population remain Muslims, but the human rights organisation Christian Freedom International reports that there is a growing number of Muslims who have been pledging their lives to Jesus Christ.

It is estimated that as many as 91,000 Muslims all across Bangladesh have converted to Christianity over the past six years, even though their conversion means they are risking death.

Pastor Faruk al-Ahmed, a Christian convert who has been preaching the gospel since the mid-90s shared his experience of the spread in Christian belief.

"When I began my ministry in Kurigram, there was only one traditional Christian family and one Muslim background family," the pastor shares with Express. "Now, almost 1,500 believers from Muslim backgrounds are glorifying God in this area."

The pastor knows there are a lot of risks attached to the Christian faith, but he strongly believes God is worth it. "Persecution will come more, but the believers and I are ready to face it," al-Ahmed says.

The current number of Christians in Bangladesh is estimated at 1.6 million, or around one per cent of the country's total population.

Christian converts might feel blessed with their new-found faith in God, but they are forced to keep their worship activities on the down low because there are can be "retaliations" against their faith.

"Churches, especially house churches where Muslim-background believers meet, prefer not to display any Christian symbols in order to avoid being recognised," the Christian persecution watchdog ministry Open Doors U.K. says in a report. "Sometimes, even historic or Mainline churches face opposition and restrictions in putting up a cross or other religious symbols."

Bangladesh has been ranked by Open Doors as the 35th worst country to practise Christianity, with nine churches reportedly being forced to close down due to security concerns.