Building Brighter Futures: How Bangladesh Bible Society is Changing Lives 

Krisna* came to realise that she was living in darkness without Jesus when she attended a Bible-based literacy course run by Bangladesh Bible Society (BBS). Krisna comes from a Hindu family, but she was curious to learn about Jesus, so when she heard that a nearby church is running an adult literacy class, she took the step. When she felt conflicted with what she was learning, she went to the church pastors and members. They told her that following Christ is a decision that she had to make on her own.  

Today, Krisna has come to accept Jesus as her Saviour, saying, “I am grateful to Bangladesh Bible Society for their Advanced Literacy program that changed my life and I [received] salvation.” Within a year of joining the literacy program, Krisna also acquired the priceless skills of reading and writing. 

Krisna’s testimony is just one of the many life-changing stories from the women of this Bible-based literacy program. Every year, BBS aims to reach around 1,500 non-literate or semi-literate women to teach them basic literacy skills whilst engaging them with God’s word. For decades, Bangladesh Bible Society has run their literacy program in partnership with local churches teaching women from disadvantaged communities.   

With a dire need to boost the literacy rate in the country, BBS took action in starting the literacy program 30 years ago, making it one of the longest running projects in the United Bible Societies (UBS) Fellowship. “I have been involved in the literacy work of the Bangladesh Bible Society during the past three decades. The country is a fertile ground for literacy work as women and children need education. In the early nineties, our research revealed that people who spent several months learning in adult literacy programs run by the government could not read the Bible when they graduated from such programs. That was the reason why the Bible Society got involved in literacy,” shares Julian Sundersingh, UBS Global Literacy Coordinator.  

Many women learn about the literacy classes from their churches, and their primary goal of enrolling is to learn to read the Bible. Yet the literacy groups have done more than just enable them to read and write. For Priya*, her newfound confidence and skills in numerical literacy are changing her life. She and her husband own a small grocery business. Being illiterate in basic numeracy, she found managing the store difficult when her husband wasn’t there. But after one year of participating in the literacy program, Priya is now able to manage on her own. “I learnt about addition, subtraction, multiplication and division beside Bible learning … Now I’m helping my husband in our shop. When he goes to bring grocery material from the market and [is] busy with other activities, I … continue our small business and keep accounts.” 

During the first year of their literacy course, these women revise the alphabet and learn basic word to sentence construction. Among their reading materials are New Testament stories and an audio Bible for learning pronunciation. Their second year involves engagement with the entire Bible story while honing their reading and writing skills. Recently, BBS introduced a third-year ‘fluency’ level to enhance their linguistic proficiency. By the end of the program, graduates are expected to confidently read the Standard Common Language Bengali Bible on their own.  

There is still room for improvement in this well-established course, explains UBS Literacy Advisor for the Asia Pacific, Cito Casquite, particularly in the use of the Bengali language. This is because some students are accustomed to speaking in native languages other than Bengali, the country’s national language. 

During his recent visit, Cito facilitated a project collaboration between SIL Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Bible Society. Cito found that Reverend Liton Mrong, BBS’s General Secretary, was  particularly helpful in advancing the collaboration with SIL, jokingly remarking, “he was leading the discussion instead of me facilitating it … because I think he got really excited to get the help from SIL … the folks from SIL have been doing literacy in the past and they have materials that are more appropriate for the learners.” 

The team was thrilled when SIL Bangladesh offered four workshop opportunities with the BBS this year to develop learning materials. Cito elaborates, “Because the Bangladesh government has commissioned SIL’s help in terms of materials development … we are really on the right partnership with SIL.” 

This partnership will also benefit another literacy program by BBS focused on pre-primary school children who speak in different mother tongues other than Bengali, including those in the Garo, Santali, Chakma, Marma, and Tripura tribes. These children often struggle when entering primary school, since Bengali is the required language in formal schooling. 

BBS saw this need and intervened by creating a two-year pre-primary literacy program for rural children designed to equip them with oral proficiency in Bengali in preparation for primary school. The program includes activities like learning Bengali vowels, counting from 1 to 10, the English alphabet from A to E, reciting rhymes, drawing a flower freehand, identifying Bangladesh’s national flag, learning to pray and that Jesus loves them. 

“Presently, there is a lot of interest in running the literacy program of the Bible Society. Many churches come forward to sponsor the classes within their premises while the Bible Society provides materials and training,” remarks Julian, as many locals see the tangible effects of these literacy programs and are eager to see it greatly impact their communities. 

If you would like to donate to contribute to this literacy program, and change lives in Asia, please visit and prayerfully consider how you can donate today.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

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