Church in Bangladesh
Capital : Dhaka
Population : 162 million
Catholics : 390,700
Jurisdictions : Two Archdioceses, Six Dioceses
Parishes : 105
Major Religions : Islam 89.5%, Hinduism 8.5%, Buddhism 0.6%, Christianity 0.4%
European missioners began to arrive on the east coast of India in the 16th century, as they accompanied Portuguese traders and mercenaries, who mostly came from the southwestern coast of India, a Portuguese stronghold at the time.

The first Portuguese expedition to Bengal landed in Chittagong in 1517. With the permission of Mughal Emperor, Humayun, Portuguese settled in Satgaon and later in Hooghly, which is now part of West Bengal state in India. They even settled in the Arakan kingdom, currently the Rakhine state of Myanmar, and Diang and Chittagong of Bangladesh. Missioners followed them eventually.

Two Portuguese Jesuit priests -- Fathers Francesco Fernandes and Domingo da Sousa -- built the first church of Bangladesh at Iswaripur in the Sunderban forest area, south of present southern Satkhira town and dedicated it on January 1, 1600, to "the Holy Name of Jesus." Nothing of this first Christian structure remains now.

Later, Portuguese Jesuits had to discontinue in the Bangladesh area, but Augustinian priests replaced them. Dom Antonio da Rozario, son of a local Hindu landlord, who was converted by the Portuguese, spearheaded the conversion of thousands of low-caste Hindus in the north of Dhaka.

Englishman William Carey was the first Protestant missionary to the East coast of India. He arrived at Serampore also in West Bengal in 1793. Carey, a Baptist, heralded the new missionary era in Bengal. Since then, hundreds of Protestant churches and organizations have established themselves in the country.

Some 600,000 Christians live in Bangladesh now, a tiny minority in a predominantly Muslim country of 162 million people. The Catholic community, with some 390,700 members, is the single largest Christian group.

People of other religions in Bangladesh--Muslims and Hindus-- highly regard Christians for their significant contribution in the fields of education, health, and their social development services.

Christian missioners have contributed to the Bengali language, promoting its colloquial and simplified form than its highly sophisticated form.

A catechism book printed in 1743 in Lisbon, Portugal, is the first colloquial Bengali book in print, and it made use of the Latin script. Missioners are also credited for codifying Bengali grammar and writing a Bengali-Portuguese and Portuguese-Bengali dictionary.

Carey translated and printed the Bible in Bengali, and wrote many other books and a dictionary in the Bengali language. He also helped develop Bengali typefaces for printing. He even published newspapers and periodicals.

Bangladesh has eight Catholic jurisdictions currently--six dioceses and two archdioceses.
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