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Credit Union enlivens missioners’ dreams

Christians enjoy socially useful financial services

Credit Union enlivens missioners’ dreams
Christian Cooperative Credit Union Ltd in Dhaka honors dedicated credit union worker on July 3
Raphael Palma, Dhaka

July 7, 2011

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The Christian Cooperative Credit Union had a great deal to celebrate this week, when it marked its 56th anniversary.  For this establishment, pioneered by Catholic foreign missioners, has made financial solvency more than just a dream for thousands of its members. At a birthday event which coincided with the UN International Day of Cooperatives on July 2, tributes were paid to the two founders, Archbishop Lawrence Leo Garner of Dhaka and Father Charles J. Young, both of the American Holy Cross Mission. “The dream of these priests has been realized and Christian members are enjoying its facilities. We must glorify God for this great cause,” said Holy Cross Father Benjamin Costa to the gathering of around 200 directors and members. CCCUL is now the largest union of its kind in Bangladesh, with 26,000 members from various denominations and total assets of two billion taka (US$ 20.67 million). It steered the establishment of the Cooperative Credit Union League of Bangladesh, a national, self-regulating body that has synergized and streamlined the movement across the country. Yet its beginnings were humble and born of necessity. In the early fifties, Christians in Dhaka had few options for borrowing. A loan from a formal institution was simply out of the question, so they had to turn to local moneylenders and landlords who, predictably, charged exorbitant interest rates. If a family had to sacrifice some of its belongings to pay off the loan, it counted itself lucky; many more ended up destitute. It was Archbishop Garner who hit upon the idea of forming a credit union. The concept, of a financial institution that is owned and effectively run by its grassroots members, was developed in Europe in the 1800’s and had grown popular in North America. He sent Father Charles to St. Francis Xavier University in Canada, to be trained on forming a cooperative. Father Charles returned, set to work and CCCUL opened for business in July 1955, with 50 founding members. Today, the UN sees credit unions as a key component in improving socio-economic conditions and a catalyst for social cohesion and unity, especially in poorer nations. A recent report said, “as the world today faces unstable financial systems, increased insecurity of food supply, growing inequality, rapid climate change and increased environmental degradation, it is increasingly compelling to consider the model of economic enterprise that cooperatives offer.” It also observed that  “the recent financial crisis, characterized by the massive public bail-out of private, investor-owned banks, has underlined the virtues of a customer-owned system.” As the movement continues to grow momentum, CCCUL continues to stay at its forefront. Its expansion plans include founding a university, a medical school and a TV channel. It is also increasingly focused on aiding community development as well as economic improvement. Yet it continues to offer socially useful financial services such as higher education loans, which students can repay in installments once they have a job. And its core activity remains the same as ever: to turn home ownership from a distant dream to a concrete reality. Related Reports: DHAKA CREDIT UNION IMPORTANT TO CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

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