From worshipping rain to faith in Christ: tribal Bawn celebrate 100 years of conversion
The ethnic group lives in the Bandarban hills, where Baptist missionary Edwin Rowlands carried out his work of evangelisation. Members of the 15,000-strong community now go to university and work abroad.
Bandarban (AsiaNews) - In the past they worshipped trees, rain, sun, rocks; now the Bawm pray to Christ and preach the Gospel. The Bawm are one Bangladesh’s smallest ethnic groups, settled in the hilly area of Bandarban, in the country’s extreme south-east.
They began converting about 100 years ago thanks to Edwin Rowlands, a Christian Baptist missionary from Wales. Today they number around 15,000, and practically the entire tribal group is Christian.
To mark the first centennial of their conversion to Christianity, they threw a big party that lasted from Saturday to Monday.
Those present said that their existence changed radically after conversion. Joyamlian Amlay, former president of the Bawm Social Council, is one of them.
“If we hadn’t received the Christian faith, we might still be uneducated,” he believes. “Now our life style has developed.”
“Most Bawm lived off the forests. Now Bawm children are students in university, and many Bawm live in developed countries. The Christian religion has helped make a difference for us. We are thankful to missionaries.”
In 1910, when the Welsh Baptist preacher arrived, the community has about 5,000 members. The first conversions took place after ten years thanks to his intense evangelising work. Today the whole tribal group is Christian and the community has about 150 preachers.
One of them is Rev Georgy Loncheu. "For the community, welcoming Christ was fundamental. Today we live in step with the times; we are educated and modern. Once we were far from Christ; now we are working to bring Christ to people of different faiths."
According to the pastor, many Bawms believe this gathering made them purer Christian. “I think the 100-year celebration was an opportunity to know each other better and to renew our belief in God."
During the gathering, a Bawm language dictionary was released. Books and other features of traditional culture were put on display.