On January 11, the interim president of Bangladesh declared a state of emergency, partly in response to ongoing strikes and protests over scheduled January 22 elections. He established martial law, giving the army authority to arrest anyone “without any notification or clarification,” our correspondent reports.

According to the declaration, the military can “enter any place without showing reason and arrest any individual on suspicion” due to what they called “sweeping prohibitory powers granted … by a presidential ordinance on the state of emergency.” Law enforcement has the power to sentence detainees to up to 14 years in prison, or even impose a death sentence.

“These are very dangerous times in Bangladesh, when anyone can be arrested without question,” GFA President K.P. Yohannan says.

“As of Tuesday, our country leader told me that there has been no immediate threat to our ministry there, for which we are grateful.”

However, Dr. Yohannan says the situation reflects growing anti-Western sentiment in Asian nations. To many, he says Christianity symbolizes the West.

“Many people actually equate Western nations, such as England and America, with Christianity,” he explains. “It is a synonym for them. Anti-Christian groups are stirring up opposition such as we have never seen before against Christianity.

“The kind of martial law that has been declared for Bangladesh can be used by anti-Christian extremist groups to falsely accuse Christians and Christian groups,” Dr. Yohannan continued.

Muslims make up the majority of the population of the nation, with more than 90 percent professing to follow Islam. Bangladesh currently claims the world’s fourth-largest Muslim population. Islam became the national religion in 1988.

So far, the state of emergency limits nearly all individual freedoms. Groups larger than three are not allowed to walk the streets together, a curfew has been imposed across the country, and all private news agencies have been instructed to broadcast only the bulletins provided by the state. Nearly all forms of communication are monitored, as well as the arrival and departure of any individual.

GFA currently broadcasts the Gospel in three languages in Bangladesh and has 163 missionaries and two Bible colleges.

Bangladesh has struggled under martial law and multiple coups over its 35-year history. The government has said this state of emergency is in effect “until further notice.”

Dr. Yohannan says the most important thing Christians can do regarding the situation in Bangladesh is to pray.

“We must really pray that this will not end up in horrible anarchy. Please join us in prayer for this country and for those who have yet to hear of Jesus.”

Read more about GFA’s ministry in Bangladesh here.