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Rights activists have to fight for justice

People whose rights are enfringed are often intimidated by power

Rights activists have to fight for justice
Participants at ECJP annual meeting pose for a photo
Sumon Corraya, Dhaka, Bangladesh

February 22, 2011

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Bangladeshi Catholic activists say they face scores of challenges while fighting for rights of the people. “Deprived people who come to us to get help to claim rights often don’t flash out the truth. They are intimidated by influential people,” said Father Anthony Sen. Father Sen, secretary of the justice and peace commission (JPC) of northwestern Dinajpur diocese spoke on the sidelines of the annual meeting of Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace (ECJP). 14 ECJP members from six dioceses of Bangladesh including the commission chairman Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi attended the meeting at Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh secretariat in Dhaka on Feb. 21. “Getting assistance from local government administration and police is also challenging. They often keep silent, sometimes ask bribes which we can’t do. If we don’t push they usually keep the aside,” added Father Sen. Making people aware about their rights is another major challenge. “Tribal people don’t keep land documents properly, and are sometimes not aware about paying taxes. Eventually their lands are taken away by opportunist people. We try to help them become aware of these issues through seminars and advocacy programs,” said Father Joseph Topno, secretary of JPC in Mymensingh diocese. Khulna diocese JPC secretary Father John Lolit Biswas said, “People often don’t know whom to run for justice. We recently rescued a boy who was falsely sued in a rape case.” Funding is also challenge for the activists, says Pius Nanuar, 28, Caritas Justice and Peace program officer. “We don’t have enough funds but still we try to help people claim their rights properly with advocacy and money,” he told Bishop Rozario noted that time has come to be self-reliant in terms of funding which was always a major concern in establishing justice and peace. “We have to watch out and ensure people not being harassed by administration and police. We can help them with advice and suggestions, but they also need to have active contributions in the whole process,” the ECJP chairman added. BA13383.1642
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