Eight-year-old Laboni loves to sing with her friends at the Bajua Child Sponsorship Program in southwest Bangladesh.
In June 2004, Compassion began its work in this small Southeast Asian country bordering the Bay of Bengal. Now more than 3,400 children are receiving physical, social, economic and spiritual help. Compassion's ministry presence in this country is a miracle considering the heavy conservative Islamic influence on the nation's government and its people. Only half of 1 percent of the nation's 150 million people are Christian. In addition, more than 36 percent of all Bangladeshis live on less than U.S.$1 a day. Please know that your sponsorship makes a real difference for Compassion-assisted children living in this impoverished nation.
The singing came from the banks of the river. Sweet phrases of song floated along the air like the wind. The impromptu concert was courtesy of more than a dozen Muslim and Hindu children who gathered together on a sunny afternoon to sing Sunday school songs.
One could hardly imagine anything being wrong with children singing sweet new songs. But the lyrical poem signaled an earth-shattering shift for this section of Bangladesh - the presence of the Bajua Child Sponsorship Program (BD-305) where the Compassion-assisted children learned the Christian songs.
Songs about Jesus Rare in Bangladesh
Bajua sits on the Pashur River in southwest Bangladesh. In this country where the national religion is Islam and only one-half of 1 percent of the nation's 150 million people are Christian, children do not sing about Jesus.
"Muslim children do not sing songs," says a member of the Bajua project staff, who asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisal. "Never have children sang songs on the bank of the river before in Bajua or anywhere else in Bangladesh for that matter. And absolutely never have Muslim children sang songs about Jesus."
Muslim Family Appreciates Compassion
Thanks to generous sponsors, Compassion and its church partners in Bangladesh are able to help children like Laboni. Laboni lives in a small, one-room hut just next to the river. Laboni's home is fragile, made of bamboo and woven palm leaves. Yet her family has a hearty love for her newfound activity - attending the Bajua project.
Children attend the Bajua project six days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. In this community, where most families make less than $25 a month, young people learn to read, write and study. They also learn about God and how to "live a good and moral life," says Monsur, Laboni's father.
"A Muslim holy man from the mosque said (our daughter) would learn bad things at the project," says Hosnhara, Laboni's mother. "But what I see is my daughter turning into a wonderful girl. I am seeing that she is becoming better.
"She used not to listen or help around the house, but now she wants a better life and sings so she can show her love to God. She is helping around the house without being asked and studying all on her own and, of course, singing all the time. She loves to sing now!"
Songs Make Children Happy
Laboni, who says she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, loves to sing to Jesus.
"They make us happy and bring joy to our lives by giving thanks to God," she says of singing the songs at the project.
As the sun sets on the waterway village of Bajua, the lyrical voices of children lull the village to sleep.
"We walk in the light of God," they sing, their voices vibrating along the banks of the Pashur River.
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