Jesus' Birthday Party
10-year-old Bijli* and her family are one of a few Christian families in their village in Bangladesh. They face rejection and isolation from their Muslim community. This is especially hard for Bijli. But a Christmas celebration organised by Open Doors local partners help to show Bijli and her family that they aren't alone or forgotten.
One afternoon in December, Bijli and her family arrive at a Christmas celebration organised by Open Doors’ local partners. After hours of travelling from their village in Bangladesh, they finally reach the Christian compound on the edge of a city –a safe place.
“Do you remember why we’re here?” Bijli’s father asks her.
“To celebrate Jesus’s birthday!” Bijli replies excitedly. “I can’t wait for the singing and dancing!”
“I want to eat Jesus’ birthday cake!” her brother Mohon says.
The driveway to the compound is lined with trees that have colourful fairy lights hung between them. Some of the local Open Doors team greet them and take their bags.
A group of girls ask Bijli, “We were going to play a game of hide and seek. Would you and your brother like to play?”
Soon, there are 100 Christian families at the celebration. All are believers from Muslim backgrounds who come from isolated rural communities, just like Bijli’s family.
For some, it will be the first time they have met with so many other Christians –and the first time they will celebrate Christmas.
Dinner is delicious daal, chicken curry, and rice. They sing songs of praise to Jesus, clapping and enjoying the freedom to worship God at the top of their lungs, with no fear of who might be listening.
“We can’t celebrate in this way in the village because of the restrictions and fear of persecution,” Bijli’s father explains.
Believers worshipping at a Christmas conference in Bangladesh.
It’s not long before the sound of drumming can be heard from the room above where everyone is eating. It comes from the main hall where the Christmas celebrations will take place.
Bijli is so excited to hear the music begin, she grabs her brother and races to the hall. Already people are dancing and singing, and more come flooding in to join the party. Everyone is dressed in their finest –the women’s beautiful sarees fill the room with colour.
There are parties like this in the village –for the end of Ramadan, or to celebrate someone’s wedding –but Bijli and her family aren’t invited. She could smell the food cooking and hear the music. She would even hear about the party at school the next day, but she never gets to join in.
But this party is different. Tonight, Bijli knows she is welcome.
At one point in the evening, the music stops, and everyone sits down on the floor. One of the leaders speaks into a microphone and asks, “Who is here to celebrate Christmas for the first time?”
Dozens of hands go up.
“We are here to celebrate ‘Emmanuel’ –that when Jesus was born, God came to be with us, here on earth. And He is with us all the time and promises never to leave us.”
“Is He even with us in the village?” Bijli asks her mother.
“Yes dear,” she replies.
“Even when I’m at school?”
“Yes, Bijli. Jesus is always with you.”
Bijli loves the songs and dancing and celebrating Jesus’ birthday. It’s clear this celebration thanks to your support and prayers, means a lot to them.
“I want to give thanks to all of my uncles and aunts who organised this program,” Bijli says.
Jesus Is Always With Me
Bijli holding a star.
Of course, the Christmas celebration can’t last forever, and soon it is time for Bijli and her family to go home. Even just by coming to the celebration, they will attract negative attention from their community. The rejection the family already face will be made even worse when the community hear that they have been at a Christian event.
But when we ask Bijli’s father if he thinks it’s worth it to come to this event, knowing what the consequences could be, he is adamant that it is.
“Yes, my decision is right,” he says, “I will give them our answer, that we are followers of Jesus Christ, and we went to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.”
Despite the difficulties Bijli is returning home to, she still has high hopes for her future.
“I would like to cook as well as my Mum,” she says, “and to be a teacher. Pray for me and my brother so that we can study well, and fulfil my dream.”
Bijli knows, Jesus is always with me.
This Christmas, may you be reminded that Jesus is always with you as you celebrate His birthday party, just like Bijli.
*Name changed for security purposes.