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Church of the poor

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Church of the poor

The Catholic Church in Bangladesh is once
again ready to receive the visit of a
Pope in the person of His Holiness Pope Francis for his Apostolic journey
scheduled from November 30 to December 2, 2017.
This is the third visit of a Pope in this soil, the first being on November 26, 1970 at midnight by Paul VI with an hour of stopover at the Dhaka Airport to convey his sympathy, prayers and charitable aid for the victims of
the biggest tidal surge and cyclone that took place on 13th November. The second visit took place on 19th November, 1986 by Pope John Paul II with main pastoral theme:
“€œCommunion and Brotherhood”€. The soil of the land has been blessed by a visit
of the Pope who is now a Saint.

Pope Francis this time comes after being
jointly invited by Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, the Honourable Prime Minister
of the Government of the People”€™s Republic of Bangladesh and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Bangladesh.

The apostolic journey will be seen in the
perspective of a general theme chosen for the occasion: “€œHarmony and Peace”€. The
people of Bangladesh as well as the local Church consider this Papal Visit as:

(a) A pilgrimage of the Holy Father Pope Francis to the soul of the people of Bangladesh;

(b) An option for the Poor in Bangladesh who constantly struggle to live the human and
spiritual values in the midst of realities of life and within the contexts of: cultural identity and heritage, national unity and inter-religious relations and harmony; vulnerability of the country adversely affected by climate changes; richness and resourcefulness of
the poor farmers, garment and migrant workers; youths of the nation, refugees
and displaced persons, many successes, achievements and future commitments for
integral human development, etc.

(c) An option for the “€œChurch of the Poor and
the Church for the Poor”€, confirmation of Christian faith and witnesses of the “€œlittle flock”€ living, witnessing and serving as “€œsalt”€ and “€œlamp”€ for the nation as our Lord Jesus wished.

I. Situation of the Catholic Church

1. Brief History

The year 2018 is the five hundred
centenary of arrival of the first Christians, who were traders coming from
Portugal and settled in Diang, Chittagong in 1518. The Apostolic visit of Pope Francis
inaugurates the Jubilee celebration of half a millennium of Christian presence
in this part of the Sub-continent. This area of the Church was transferred to
that of Cochin Diocese in 1598, the year when first two Jesuit missionary
priests, Fr. Francesco Fernandes and Fr. Domingo D”€™Souza landed in Diang. In the year 1600 two churches were built, one
in Chandecan (Iswaripur, Jessore) and the second in Chittagong at Bandel. Fr. Francesco Fernandes S.J is considered the
first martyr in Bengal. After being
tortured in a cave, he died on November 14, 1602.

The Church in Bangladesh has been under
different Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions starting from Diocese of Goa from the
beginning, Cochin Diocese (1598), Mylapur Diocese (1606), Vicariate Apostolic
of Bengal under Propagation of the Faith (1834), Vicariate of Eastern Bengal

Presently the Catholic Church in
Bangladesh has eight Dioceses. Dhaka
Diocese was erected in 1886 and later in 1950 was made a Metropolitan Archdiocese. The erection of other Dioceses followed: Diocese of Chittagong in 1927 which was made
a Metropolitan Archdiocese in 2017; Diocese
of Dinajpur in 1927, Diocese of Khulna
in 1952, Diocese of Mymensingh in 1987, Diocese of Rajshahi in 1990, Diocese of
Sylhet in 2011, Diocese of Barisal in 2015.

Theotonius Amal Ganguly, csc was the first
local Bishop consecrated in 1960 and made Archbishop in 1967. He has been declared a Servant of God in the
cause for Canonization. Presently all
the Ordinaries are from the soil of Bangladesh.
Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Patrick D”€™Rozario, csc, the Archbishop
of Dhaka as the first Cardinal ever from Bangladesh in 2016. He is also the first Bengali Cardinal.

Here it may be said that William Carey was
the first Protestant Missionary who arrived in Bengal in 1793 who heralded a
new missionary era in Bengal. With Carey came the
Baptist Missionary Society which was followed by many Church Missionary
Societies from England, New Zeeland, America, etc. After the War of Independence in 1971, there
was an influx of more Protestant missionary societies in Bangladesh.Besides evangelism, these societies also plant churches, and
establish and run various educational, healthcare, and welfare institutions and
organizations. At present, the number of Protestants in Bangladesh is estimated
to be around 200,000 which is about
30% of the total Christian Population.

2. Statistical

has a total population of about 162 million. Christians in Bangladesh
are only 0.4%, in the midst of a
predominantly Muslim majority (88%), along with Hindus of about 9% and
Buddhists about 2%, and others followers of traditional religions (about 0.6%). Among the Christians, Catholics are about
70%, and the other 30% belong to Protestant Churches and other Christian
denominations. The biggest ethnic group (385,000) is called Bengali Catholics
who belong to 98% of the national population. However, Catholics coming from
more than 34 tribal ethnic groups count about 49% of the total Catholic
population in Bangladesh.

3. Catholic
Bishops”€™ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB)

The Catholic Bishops”€™ Conference of
Bangladesh (CBCB) which came into being in 1971 immediately after the
Independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan.
The Conference now consists of two Archdioceses and six dioceses. Since the Independence, in response to its
life and mission, the Catholic Bishops, in collegiality with each other,
inspired by the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, committed itself in bringing
renewal in the local Church with ongoing reflection and action, developing
organizational and infra-structural services, setting up pastoral priorities,
providing pastoral directives for the mission of the Church in Bangladesh. The Conference meets regularly about three to
four times a year, on average for 2 days.

At the
level of the Conference there are fourteen Episcopal Commissions and Organizations in order to constantly
assist the Church at the Diocesan and national level with reflection, doing
action together, providing inspiration and implementing the decisions of the
Conference in the fields of: Liturgy, Catechetics, Family Life, Education,
Health Care, Justice and Peace, Inter-religious Dialogue and Christian Unity,
Social Communications, Youth, Laity, Seminary, Clergy and Religious,
Evangelization and Caritas Bangladesh.
All eight Dioceses have Diocesan Commissions which are concomitant parts
of the National Commissions.

4. Vision and Mission of the Church

Looking at the history we recognize three
epochs of inner development in the Catholic Church in Bangladesh: (a)
Infant Stage: a situation of Receiving Church, (b) Church Come of Age: a situation of Church becoming itself, (c)
Adult Stage: a situation of Giving

In the context of the Adult Stage, from
1985, the Bishops of Bangladesh started their Journey of “€œsynodus”€, “€œWalking
Together”€ by adopting a Pastoral Plan for the entire Church in Bangladesh. In the pastoral plan our vision and
priorities are: (a) Healing of Injustices
in our option for the poor; (b)
Communion with People of other Religions and Ecclesial Communities; (c)
Communion among Priests, Religious and Lay faithful within the Church; (d)
Inculturation and Evangelization, (e) Formation to spiritual and missionary
Discipleship and (f) Care for Creation.
The pastoral priorities are focused on: Family, Basic Communities and
Spirituality of Communion. These
priorities and focuses are taken up every year in our annual pastoral programs
at the level of the Dioceses as well as at the level of the Bishops”€™

The Catholic
Church in Bangladesh has adopted its mission as follows:

(a) to form in the true discipleship of Christ and
Christian faith in and through living a life of prayer, meditation on the Word
of God and faithful to Liturgical and Sacramental life;

(b) to form and live family life in the light of the
Gospel and form the parishes as communion of communities;

(c) to immerse into selfless services as Priests,
Religious and Christ”€™s Faithful, formed
in spirituality of contemplation, communion and solidarity;

(d) to educate and form the children and youth in
accordance with the teachings of the Church and education for genuine human and
civic life;

(e) to commit to dialogue with the people of other
Churches and of faiths, to live in
harmony and peace and proclaim the Gospel to all;

(f) to commit and dedicate fully to love and serve the
poorest of the poor, the disabled and the needy in order to establish a just
and peaceful society envisioning integral human development;

(g) to take care of creation in a spirit of
stewardship of creation and of our common home the mother earth, making her a
better livable place for the future generation by opting for simple living.

Our pastoral plan is implemented by the
Families and the Small Christian Communities at the base; by educational and
medical institutions, social and pastoral centers; by lay organizations,
associations and movements where laity is very active. Priests, Religious and
the Laity work in communion with each other.

5. Clergy and Men and Women of Consecrated

Although the Catholic Church is a very
small minority in Bangladesh, yet God has blessed her with many vocations to
Priesthood and Consecrated life.
Statistically the Church has 9 active Archbishops and Bishops who are
Bangladeshis. There are 391 Priests out
of which 228 Diocesan Priests, 163 Religious Priests (52 foreigners); 114
Religious Brothers (15 foreigners) and 1100 Religious Sisters (76
foreigners). The Diocesan Priests of
Bangladesh are associated under Bangladesh Diocesan Priests Fraternity (BDPF),
local name for Apostolic Union of Clergy which is responsible for promoting
fraternity, on-going pastoral and spiritual formation.

At present a total of 35 Religious
Congregations of men and women and Apostolic Societies are working in
Bangladesh, some of them have been well known and long-time missionary
Congregations. One of the Holy Cross
members, Brother Flavian Doria Laplante, csc. (1907-1997) an “€œApostle to Fishermen”€
is also declared as Servant of God, whose cause being in the process of
Beatification. St. Theresa of Kolkata,
is also considered very closed to Bangladesh, who has travelled widely, visited
several times and founded many Convents for the Sisters of the Missionaries of
Charity in Bangladesh. Bangladesh had
been blessed by a presence of this living saint. Besides the above mentioned number of
Congregations, the Dominicans, Benedictines, Franciscans, Augustinians, etc.
also worked in this area for certain period some of whom have a small presence
still. The Religious Congregations are
confederated together as Bangladesh Conference of Religious (BCR) which
arranges programs for their on-going reflection and formation.

6. Activities
of the Church

The Priests, Religious men and women and
the lay faithful are actively involved in implementing the vision and mission
of the Church through many activities.
They are engaged in the following main apostolate:

a) Parish and Pastoral Ministry:

are about 100 parishes and 50 sub-Parishes in the eight dioceses in
Bangladesh. In the parish the ministries
that are ordinarily done are: liturgical and prayer life, catecheses, family
welfare, faith formation and training for different ministries, justice, peace
and reconciliation, dialogue and ecumenism, Christian leadership, work of
evangelization, promotion of priestly and religious vocation, animation of
Small Christian Communities (SCC), parish planning, governance and
administration, socio-economic developments, health care, animation of lay
Association, Movements and Organizations, Christian festivals and celebrations,
charitable and merciful activities to the those who need special love and care.
All these activities are targeted to Christian individuals, children, youth
couples, parents, disabled, village and parish communities.

b) Education:

Church runs many educational institutions, open to children and youth of all
religions and cultures. They are geared for general education and learning, but
also to inculcate value and moral education.
The Catholic Church owns 600 primary and Kindergarten schools, 31 Junior
Schools, 49 High Schools out of which 10 are raised as College having grade
11-12 levels, 2 colleges including a
teachers training college and 1 University. About 135 boarding houses and
hostels are there where boys and girls come to receive education from nearby

c) Health care:

75 clinics, dispensaries and hospitals run by the Catholic Church are mainly
for general treatment, accessible mainly to the less advantaged and
marginalized peoples. These are considered as the only means of medical
treatment in the remote areas.

d) Works of Charity and Socio-economic

Bangladesh is one of the biggest local NGOs and is doing the work as the
“€˜social arm”€™ of the local Church following the Social Teachings of the
Church. Caritas Bangladesh is very well
known and admired for its selfless, committed and dedicated services among the
poor irrespective of culture and religions. There are also lay sodalities who
do charitable and works of mercy among the poor.

e) Cooperative and Credit Unions for
Sustainable Development:

is one of the biggest contributions of the Catholic Church to the nation
initiated originally by foreign missionaries and now totally governed and
managed by lay people who have made the Christian community achieve economic
solvency. These Cooperative and Credit
Unions are present in almost all parishes in all the Dioceses. The lay participation in the development in
the Christian community in economic sphere, social and political leadership is

f) People Needing Special Love and Care:

local Church has loving concern for the people needing special care. She has,
therefore, several orphanages, rehabilitation centers for drug addicts,
abandoned children, HIV/AIDS, homeless and displaced children and people, and
elderly people. The Catholic Church has special programs for the disabled in
all the Dioceses inspired by the love and care envisioned by Jean Vanier
(founder of L”€™Arch, and Faith and Light Movement).

g) Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism:

local Church takes its pride in initiating inter-religious dialogue in
Bangladesh. Dialogue with people of
other religions at the level of daily life situation, in collaboration and
cooperation in actions, ongoing faith reflection and sharing and encounters in
spiritual programs are quite normal in every parish.

h) Formation of the Laity and Advancement of

Church concentrates more and more to faith formation of children, youth and the
laity; various programs and seminars for advancement of women, vocational
training for the youth and unemployed, pastoral care to families and spiritual
programs for lay formation are regular pastoral activities.

7.Some Strengths of the Catholic Church

In order to conclude this section on
activities of the Church in Bangladesh, I would like to highlight some
strengths and opportunities for the life and mission of the Church in Bangladesh.

The following strengths are visible in the Church in its ecclesial journey:

(1) The
Catholic Church in Bangladesh is a “€œChurch of the Poor and Church for the
Poor”€. The people experience themselves
as “€œAnawim Yahaweh”€ , the poor, little ones and “€œlittle flock”€ who are loved
and cared by God the Father, revealing his divine plan to care for the

(2) The Catholic Church in Bangladesh is an
“€œinculturated”€ Church. The people of
different cultural groups within the Church strive to live the Gospel in their
own life situation and thus evangelization takes place.

(3) The Catholics are mostly practicing and
they are very much devoted to God as expressed through their faith, prayers,
popular devotions and spiritual exercises.

(4) In the Catholic Church in Bangladesh there
is planning in pastoral activities for work of evangelization. The representatives of the Dioceses together
with their Shepherds come together once in every decade or so for overall
reflection, planning and evaluation at the national level for the local Church.

(5) The Hierarchy of the Church has strong
sense of collegiality among the Bishops themselves, between the Bishops and
Priests and among the priests. Fraternal
bond is regularly celebrated through common activities, reflection and planning

(6) The Catholic Church has an impact on the
society especially through education, health care, charitable works, human
development activities, inter-religious dialogue and Christian ecumenism, and
prayers for the greater communities in Bangladesh. The role of the Church in Bangladesh is like
“€œsalt”€ and “€œlamp”€ of the earth in the pattern of Jesus”€™ command.

(7) Being small, the Catholic Church, in doing
its ministries, takes the people of other religions as active co-partners,
collaborators and colleagues who also share the same universal vision and
committed to develop among people human, cultural and moral values. On average about 60-70% of our fellow-workers
in our educational, social, health care, charitable and developmental
institutions and services, belong to the people of other religions. This is an excellent way of

(8) Building communion and community at all
levels: with people of different faiths and Christian denominations, among
priests, religious men and women, in families, in small Christian communities
and parish communities, etc. is the focus of our pastoral engagements and soul
of our spirituality.

(9) The Catholic Church can be proud of the
lay men and women who are very active in the mission of the Church in their own
specific spheres of life and in the Church activities.

(10) The
Catholic Church in Bangladesh is also blessed by vocations to priesthood and
religious life. Most of the families are
aware of their responsibility to nurture and form their children for priestly and
religious vocations.

8. Some Challenges and Opportunities

The Catholic Church also experiences some
limitations and weaknesses which are taken as challenges and opening to newopportunities:

(1) Basic faith formation and deepening of it,
is an absolute need for all, especially for those who have recently embraced
Christian faith.

(2) Formation in proper understanding and
concept of the Church is very important for priests, religious and the laity
for their life as well as for their mission of building communion.

(3) Evangelization of individual life, family,
local village community and parish community, use of media with the Gospel
values are the continuous mission of the Church.

(4) Formation of Christian lay leaders in the
spirit of the Gospel values is the urgent need for the lay faithful.

(5) On-going efforts are needed to orientate
our pastoral activities with focus on family, basic community and spirituality
of communion.

(6) More emphasis and engagements on being
Church of the Poor and for the Poor. A
preferential option for the poor by the Small Christian and Parish Communities
and the Diocese is a new opportunities for the Church as well demands of the

(7) In pastoral approach everyone,
particularly the priests, should be imbued with values of love, mercy and
compassion, understanding and reconciliation, and discernment and accompaniment
of the people.

(8) More participation of lay men and women in
the decision making, governance and administration of the Church at different

(9) Care of creation, our common home should
enter into the normal practices of being Christians as individuals and as

(10) More
and more our Institutions should place utmost importance to human, ethical and
spiritual values as a way of living, acting and witnessing.


1. Cultural Heritage and Religious Identity

greater part of the present Bangladesh came under the Indo-Aryan civilization
sometimes in the 7th century BC. With
the rise of Buddhism many missionaries settled in the land to spread the
religion and established many historical habitat such as at Mahasthangarh in
present Bogura district. After Gupta Dynasty, the Pala dynasty were the first
independent Buddhist dynasty of Bengal. The
Buddhist dynasty lasted for four centuries (750″€“1120) and ushered in a period
of stability and prosperity in Bengal.

the Sen Dynasty (11th -12th century) Bengali Culture
developed into a distinct culture within the Hindu Civilization.

made its first appearance in Bengal region during the 7th century through Arab
Muslim traders and Sufi missionaries, and the subsequent Muslim conquest of
Bengal in the 12th century led to the establishment of Islam across the region.
Under the Muslim rulers Bengal entered a new era as cities were developed;
palaces, forts, mosques, mausoleums and gardens sprang up; roads and bridges
were constructed; and new trade routes brought prosperity and a new cultural

Hindu believes the fundamental oneness of humankind in spirit. The Hindu belief and the Sufi tradition of
Islam have influenced and interacted with each other in Bengal. Both were
popular mystical movements emphasizing the personal relationship of religious
leader and disciple instead of the stereotypes of the brahmin or the ulema.
Both use the language of earthly love to express communion with the divine. In
both traditions, the Bengali language is the vehicle of a large corpus of
mystical literature of great beauty and emotional impact.

Bengal Renaissance came as a social reform movement during the 19th and early
20th centuries in Bengal during the period of British rule. The Bengal
Renaissance can be said to have started with Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1775″€“1833) and
ended with Rabindranath Tagore (1861″€“1941). Bengal in the 19th century had a
unique blend of religious and social reformers, scholars, literary giants,
journalists, patriotic orators and scientists, all merging to form the image of
a renaissance, and marked the transition from the medieval to the modern.

has a rich, diverse culture. Its deeply rooted heritage is thoroughly reflected
in its architecture, dance, literature, music, painting and clothing. The four
primary religions of Bangladesh (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity)
have a great influence on its culture and history.

is also in Bangladesh a tribal population consisting of about one million
people (0.60% of Population), belonging to 34 tribal groups. The seven largest
tribes in Bangladesh are the Chakmas and Marmas who are mainly Buddhists, the
Tripuras are either Hindus or animists living
in Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Garos in region of Mymensingh and
the Santals, Oraons and Khasis in North
Bengal. They differ in their social
organizations, marriage customs, birth and death rites, food, and other social
customs from the rest of the people of the country. They are called adivashis,
portraying original spirit and values. They now live more intermingled with the
Bengali community, speak Bangla and have legal citizenship.

arrived in what is now Bangladesh during the beginning or the sixteenth century
through Portuguese traders and then missionaries. Among the Bengali Christians, Roman
Catholicism is predominant, while the remaining others are Protestants
belonging to many denominations. As
mentioned earlier about 49% of the Catholics are non-Bengali, belonging to
tribal communities who are called adivashis.

we characterize Bengali people on religious affiliations we have mainly two
groups: Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims.
Besides other factors the main reason for creating two nations of India
and Pakistan in 1947 was religion: Pakistan for Muslims and India for Hindus
mainly. For the liberation of Bangladesh
in 1971, other reasons than religion were the main factors. Creation of Bangladesh brought confirmation
of Bengali cultural identity with four fundamental pillars of the nation: nationalism, secularism (non-communalism in
faith), democracy and socialism.

The Constitution
of Bangladesh has enshrined freedom of thought, conscience, speech (Article
39 § 1& 2 and a & b) and freedom
of Religions. The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds
only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. (Const. Art. 28). Regarding the subject of law, public order
and morality, the Constitution affirms that: (a) every citizen has the right to
profess, practice or propagate any religion; (b) every religious community or
denomination has the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.
(Art. 41)

2. Dialogue with other Religions:

relation with other religions has to be seen in the perspective of the above
cultural and religious background. The
long Bengali cultural identity is the foundation of religious harmony, relationships
and dialogue. The Christians of
Bangladesh are part and parcel of that identity and traditions. The Church”€™s relationships, harmony and peace
with other religions mainly with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, find their
manifestations in following ways, which we can call ways of Dialogue:

(a) Dialogue of life:

This is a relationship of the Christians living with
the people of other faiths based on everyday life: living together with the
neighborhood families, visiting, sharing the joyful and sorrowful events of
life and families; extending assistance in needs, friendship built around
academic, professional and social life.
This living and sharing removes a lot of prejudices and promotes human
relations and values.

(b) Dialogue of Celebrations and Festivals

The relationship with the people of other
faiths finds visible manifestations in family and social celebrations and
religious festivals. The common
celebrations and festivals either of Christians or that of other religions are
open to and participated by all. This is
seen at different levels: family, society, institution level. Even the head of the state and the head of
the government invite people belonging
to a particular faith for common celebrations yearly on certain religious

(c) Dialogue of Action

The Catholic Church being a small minority
but involved in working for the people of all religions, takes other competent
people as colleagues, co-workers, collaborators both in decision making and in
activities in the field of education, health care, human development work,
social and charitable works and even in Inter-religious programs. In this dialogue of action real
evangelization takes place through the shared vision, values and virtues which
are very human and Christian.

Dialogue of Reflection and Discourse

The Catholic Church organizes as well as
participates in the Inter-religious dialogue meetings, seminars and other
programs. These gatherings take place in
order to discuss certain issues or to celebrate certain occasions where formal
talks are presented in the light of one”€™s faith as Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or
Christian. Moreover in the education
syllabus for the school students, general information about other religions are
given. Through media, the Church is also
involved in continuous conversation with the men and women of the society and
present Christian views and values.

Spiritual Dialogue

The Catholic Church takes initiative to
organize and also participate in common prayer and fast for certain
occasions. Common call for prayers for
peace, solidarity and harmony is also launched at times. Most of the inter-religious assemblies are
held with readings from the Holy Books of different religions.

Dialogue with the “€œpoor”€

The Catholic Church experiences that
common programs or projects in favour of the poor who need special love and
care can be one of the best means of inter-religious dialogue. Works of mercy done by different
organizations and associations experience such relationship and harmony among
the followers of different religions.
Here is an opportunity the Catholic Church should, reflectively and
planned way, move further to strengthen the inter-religious dialogue and
ecumenism among the Christians.

3. Challenges to Inter-religious Dialogue

Although respect
for other religions, existence of cultural identity and affinity, spiritual
communion are promoted and celebrated, yet inter-religious harmony and
relationships are at times threatened by some terrorists, religious fanatics
and fundamentalists and militant and extremist groups and by their insurgent
activities. These violent activities
against the people of minority religions are really bringing a new situation in
the existing harmonious culture. Along
with these counter cultural and religious harmony, there is a trend of majority
affirming their dominance over the minority guided by selfish motives. This attitude is manifested in religion, in
social power structures and in relation with ethnic groups. In social encounter with the followers of the
majority religion, the other minority religions feel threatened in their
religious freedom, denied of their social, political and economic rights and
justice, uproot the ethnic minorities from their homes and lands. In these situations the Christian community
being minority and embracing many minority ethnic groups in its fold, is
discouraged in their efforts of inter-religious relationship and services to
the majority community. For
inter-religious dialogue the people of the majority religion need to take
initiatives to safeguard the traditional religious harmony and cultural
identity, and promote positively respect for all religions and preferentially
opt for the minority, poor and the weak in the society.


1. Experiences of Positive Relationship

(a) It is already said that the Christian
community in Bangladesh is a very small minority in the midst of 162 million
people in the country. However the
positive impact of the Church is far more than its number. The Christian Community is considered as
peace loving people with high sense of moral and spiritual values, very visible
in their life witness in the society.
The people of Bangladesh and its Government have this positive attitude
towards the Christians.

(b) The people as well as the Government of
Bangladesh recognize in public very sincerely, the contributions and sacrifices
that the Christian community has made especially during the time of Liberation
in 1971 and in rebuilding the country afterwards. The Church”€™s role in the fields of education,
health, social development, charitable works, socio-economic growth of the
grass root people are widely acknowledged.
The Christian community runs some of the best educational institutions
in the country which have produced very competent, qualified and well-valued
citizens, many of whom now give leadership in the country and in the government

(c) Every year, during the time of Christmas,
the President of the country and the Prime Minister of the Government arrange
Christmas Reception for the Christian Community.

(d) In making some policies and law for the
country which may affect the Christian Community, the Government consults some
representatives of the Church and seek their opinions on the matters.

(e) The Catholic Church together with other
Christian Communities approach the Government authorities many times with their
grievances and the Government pay due attention to them. Some of the problems presented have been: separation between the state and the Church,
exemption as Church from law for bringing foreign donation for church
activities, providing missionary visa to the Church workers coming from abroad,
exception on some rules and regulations on education for the church
institutions, violence and injustices against minority Christians and ethnic
groups, facilitating permission for starting Theotonius Amal Ganguly Teachers
Training College, other Colleges and Notre Dame University, appointing Priests
and Religious as Heads of the Christian educational institutions, some cases of
positive interventions from the higher authorities in order to get justice and
fare treatment.

(f) During any possible threats to Christian
Community that may come from the militant, fundamentalist and terrorist groups,
the Government has provided security for people, place and property.

(g) Very friendly and spiritual relationship
with the Holy See and the Government of Bangladesh continues uninterrupted. The
last visit of Pope John Paul II in 1986 and the coming visit of Pope Francis
are two milestones of cordial, human and spiritual relationship. Voices of the Pope on international issues
are heard with special importance and convictions and his fatherly concern has
been expressed for example, during the incidents of injustices to garment
workers, victims of different natural and man-made calamity, refugees from
Myanmar, vulnerable situation of Bangladesh because of the climate changes,
etc. The recent appointment of a
Cardinal from Bangladesh has been considered as an honour and recognition of
the nation by the Holy Father.

(h) Government leadership recognizes a special
spiritual role of the Church Religious leaders especially in praying for them.

2. Opportunities for Further Growth in

again, it has to be said, that Christians are such a small community,
Government does not know how to deal with us while making laws, policies and
guidelines. Some time the Government
officials, who are transferred so often, do not know the customs and the
traditions the Church institutions have been enjoying for so long. For better relationship and working of the
Church the following points need to be considered:

(a) Although Constitution of Bangladesh recognizes
the equality of all citizens and guarantees their rights, yet in some specific
cases, the needs of minorities either religious or ethnic, are to be addressed
by the Government in a preferential way for the common good of the

(b) Representative
Authorities of the minorities either religious or ethnic, should have easy
access to the pertinent government offices to present their views and

(c) Within
the purview of rights to associations, the rights of the Christian community
and to run its institutions with specific rules and regulations, subject to the
laws of the country of course, must be recognized.

(d) Government
should take special steps to guarantee the rights of the tribal community as
regards their right to land, household, geo-ethnic environment.

(e) Government should
meticulously implement the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitutions to
profess and propagate faith. Any breach
of that law should be punished with fairness and positively promote and protect
the religious minority groups including the Christians.


As this write up on the Situation of the
Catholic Church in Bangladesh is concluded, once again we recall God”€™s love and
his plan for us. We also experience his love manifested through the Holy Father
Pope Francis who has given priority to visit us, to be with us as well as to
speak to us what God wants from us. His
kind visit shall also be an occasion for us to discover how we shall journey in

“€œIn his mysterious plan God has raised up
in this land a visible Church, which is to live the life of Jesus and proclaim
God”€™s Kingdom to others. For this gift of the life and mission of Jesus we are
grateful to our heavenly Father and to all those who have been his apostles in
this world… And we pray that God will draw all people to his son Jesus and
that he will make this Church grow according to his plan in order to establish
his Kingdom”€. (PP. 1985)

Cardinal Patrick D”€™Rozario, csc. Archbishop of Dhaka


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