Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Drive to protect tribal people, nature
Conference highlights problems of tribal groupsTribal people in their display cottage during the recent convention
- Sister Shilpi Rozario, CSC, Sylhet
- January 18, 2012
Two leading environmental groups, the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) and the Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN) along with Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) organized the January 12-14 event at the university‚Äôs campus in Sylhet.
The conference drew around 1,000, people mostly indigenous tribals from at least 30 ethnic groups from around Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Sunamgonj and Habigonj.
A leaflet published by the organizers highlighted the conference‚Äôs aims.
‚ÄúEnvironmental degradation [climate change] and human rights are two of the most important issues of our times. Simultaneous protection of the environment and the rights of indigenous people is an important challenge facing us all,‚ÄĚ it read.
It said attacks on the environment around Sylhet had occurred hand-in-hand with encroachment on tribal lands and with violations of tribal people‚Äôs rights.
Organizers said the gathering was meant to be a wakeup call for authorities and civil groups to help protect tribal people who for so long have been left to care for the environment on their own.
BAPA activist and human rights worker Oblate Father Joseph Gomes in his keynote speech said: ‚ÄúTribal people have been living for generations in forests and hills protecting them. They have a spiritual, social and economic relationship with their environment.‚ÄĚ
All are now under threat because of large-scale commercial projects, he added.
One prime example highlighted was large stone quarry near Jaflong which organizers said has destroyed an environmental treasure and a popular tourist spot. Tribal people who lived on tea estates or depended on betel leaf cultivation whilst taking care of the local environment at the same time were forced from their homes and moved to make way for the quarry.
The organizers also arranged meetings with scholars and rights activists and stakeholders to discuss issues like logging, livelihoods and the environment.
The result of the convention was a strategic environmental and tribal protection plan with six recommendations called the ‚ÄėSylhet Declaration.‚ÄĚ
It is our responsibility to unite with tribal people to protect our environment and their rights,‚ÄĚ SUST professor Dr. Md. Salehuddin told the conference.
Babli Talang, a tribal Khasia woman said the conference was the perfect opportunity for tribal people to be heard.
‚ÄúIt was an opportunity to let others understand our rights, pains and joys. It will help reduce prejudices and dispel misconceptions about us,‚ÄĚ the 26 year old said.
‚ÄúPeople thought we merely cut down trees to cultivate betel leaves, but now they know we actually protect trees,‚ÄĚ she added.
Blockade of tribal Christians ends
Activists support tribals‚Äô fight against tree cutting