• bcschumacher

Ten reasons why Bangladesh, especially southern Bangladesh, should be a high priority

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) says they can’t do everything. Well of course they can’t. But the point is that they do something. Like any organization they have priorities and strategies for deciding where they work. The question is why has Bangladesh become a low priority country for MCC? For that matter, why has southern Bangladesh become lower priority than northern Bangladesh? MCC has not worked in southern Bangladesh since 2008 and even in the north, they have had a strategy of downsizing for numerous years.

Below are ten reasons why Bangladesh, especially southern Bangladesh, should be a high priority for MCC to work in. Though commenting specifically about MCC, much of this is applicable to other aid groups as well.

1. The largest mass poisoning in human history (with regards to the ongoing arsenic crisis), with lack of mitigation and extension services needed especially among the poor and very poor.

2. MCC worked for almost 40 years in southern Bangladesh and 50 years in Bangladesh – they have built relationships in the southern part of the country and should have more responsibility for what is happening there. It does not seem right when they are involved in horrific situation and MCC leaves and has no mention of the people they have worked with who are going though very hard times, as if they do not exist.

3. Because MCC priorities include water quality and helping small farmers with global warming issues especially among the poor. Considering these, southern Bangladesh should be a high priority. Arsenic, although a quiet crisis, is still killing many people, disabling many more.

4. Muslim - Christian Relationships. Bangladesh is one of largest, certainly most densely populated, Muslim areas; yet there has been declining Anabaptist presence over most of the country.

5. Missions, in the sense of word and/or deed, has been strong in Anabaptist circles since started in Reformation times. We should have strong consideration of outreach in areas relatively untouched by established Anabaptist churches and communities. Now there is no large Anabaptist presence. MCC has been downsizing for years.

6. Peacemaking opportunities. If environmental concerns—especially water quality and global warming issues—are not addressed, there is a potential for mass destabilization with potential violence.

7. Global warming has potential to devastate southern Bangladesh, including increased salinity wrecking soils and drinking water.

8. Assisting in southern Bangladesh is a matter of environmental justice considering that most of the impacts fall on the heads of the poor.

9. Because it is an incredibly densely populated country; 80 million in early 1980s, 165 million presently. In next 20-30 years expected to grow to 240 million people. This will greatly exacerbate water quality and global warming concerns.

10. The biblical mandate to helps those in need and not to abandon them. For example, consider the parable of the Good Samaritan.

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In this document the first part is a literature review of the arsenic problem in Bangladesh. The 2nd part of it shares history of MCC involvement in Bangladesh that is relevant to the arsenic issue.