Building a bridge to Hindus and Muslims
By Adam Miller
In his native language Paul Biswas’s last name means "faith." But this wasn’t
always the case. Paul’s father became furious with his son when—after becoming
a Christian—Paul decided to change his last name from "Vishnu" (one of the
major Hindu gods) to "Biswas." That was 1973.
Among Hindus, being the oldest son brings extra respect and responsibilities.
While still in elementary school, Paul learned the religion at his
grandfather’s knee. Rejecting Hinduism as the oldest son brings absolute family
rejection, legal disownment and persecution.
At 21 Paul could no longer believe in a religion based on reincarnation, 300
million gods and goddesses—three major ones—predestination and "Karma."
"From the Bible I came to know that salvation is by grace through faith in
Jesus Christ alone," Paul says. "It is by faith only. I don’t need to do Karma.
I don’t need to show my good works and prove them."
Disowned by his father and kicked out of the house, Paul endured years of
persecution, humiliation, hardship and even physical torture because of his
"Before I left my father’s home, I told my father he could disown me, but that
my Eternal Father would not disown me."
Paul and his father have since reconciled, but even today his parents won’t hug
him because he’s considered an outcast.
Today Paul ministers to other Hindus and Muslims as a church planting
missionary and founding pastor of the Boston Bangla Church in Boston,
About 1 million Bengalis live in the United States but only four SBC-Bengali
churches nationwide serve them. Some 20,000 Bengalis live in New England,
reached by only one Bengali Baptist church. About 7,000 Bengalis live in
Greater Boston—4,000 in the Cambridge area.
"The biggest challenge for my ministry here is to mobilize the local churches,"
says Paul. "We have more than 150 people groups here in the Boston area and the
American churches are getting a new experience. They don’t know how to reach
out to the vast number of Muslims and Hindus."
Paul doesn’t find it difficult to reach Muslims in the U.S. "It’s much harder
back in Bangladesh, a country of 150 million people. But here, Muslims hear the
gospel and are responsive. It depends on your approach. It’s important to speak
to them in their own heart-language and to know and understand their
Language is not a problem for Paul. He understands Hindi and Urdu, and speaks
Bengali and English fluently.
"Muslims have a high regard and respect for Jesus. They consider him as one of
four Major Prophets. The Qur’an has 22 different titles for Jesus—‘Messiah,’
‘Spirit of God,’ ‘Word of God,’ etc. Muslims cannot deny what’s in their own
book." Paul uses the Qur’an as a bridge to reach Muslims.
A key problem with witnessing to Bengalis in Boston is merely finding a time to
coincide with their busy schedules.
"It’s hard to reach the Bengali immigrants because they work so hard—seven days
a week. We have one group that meets at midnight because that’s when the people
come home from work. At midnight or 1 a.m. they have their Bible study meeting,
eat together, go home by 3 a.m., sleep a few hours and then get up and go to
work again," he explains.
Paul is partnering with three local churches, but needs the prayer and
financial support of four more churches in 2009. Paul’s two biggest partners in
sharing the gospel are his wife, Elizabeth, and Abu Mansur, a converted Muslim
he first knew back in Bangladesh.
"Mansur is a wonderful guy with a great passion to reach out to his own people
because he himself came from a Muslim background," says Paul. "We have a good
combination. I can reach the Hindus and Mansur can reach the Muslims."
A Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionary, Paul is jointly supported by the
North American Mission Board, the New England Baptist Convention and the
Greater Boston Baptist Association.
As a NAMB MSC missionary, Paul must raise most of his financial support through
local churches. But his ministry to Bengalis is supported by AAEO.
"We started our ministry in 2003 without the help of NAMB or the Annie
Armstrong offering," recalls Paul. "Today, Southern Baptists’ support is a real
blessing for us." OMAdam Miller is associate editor of On Mission magazine.
Paul Biswas– North American Missions Emphasis Worship
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC