Diocese of Sylhet
Diocese of Sylhet

Sylhet is a metropolitan city in the northeastern Bangladesh. It is the administrative seat of the Sylhet Division. The city is located on the right bank of the Surma River in northeastern Bengal. It has a subtropical climate and lush highland terrain, and has a population of more than half a million. Sylhet is one of Bangladesh's most important spiritual and cultural centers, and is one of the most important cities of Bangladesh after Dhaka and Chittagong, due to its importance to the country's economy. Sylhet produces the highest amount of tea and gas in the country.


As per the 2017 Bangladesh census, the city had a population of around 13,466,882. The population growth rate of the city is 1.73%, which has gone down from 1.93% in 1991. As of 2001, it had an average literacy rate of 69.73%. The highest literacy rate was 84.24% in Ward 22 and the lowest was 48.15% in Ward 10 (2001). The total number of households in the city was 55,514.

The majority of the population is Bengali Muslims of Sylheti background, while there exists significant minority groups which include the Bishnupriya Manipuri and several others. Sylheti is spoken by the vast majority, while standard Bengali is the official language used by the state government and other officials.

The majority of the Sylhetis are Muslims (87.2%). Other religious groups include Hindus (12.6%) and less than 0.2% of other religions, mainly Buddhists and Christians. The majority of the Muslims are mainly Sunni Hanafi; and there are significant numbers of people who also follow Sufi ideals.


Sylhet was canonically erected as a Catholic diocese by Pope Benedict XVI on July 8, 2011. This new Diocese consists of four civil districts covering 12,594 sq. km. The total population is around 10 million. There are 17,000 Catholics.

In the 17th century, there were Christians in parts of Srihotto, which comprised of the present-day Sylhet division, covering the four northeastern districts. Father Loi Jose Anjus, an Augustinian missionary who was in-charge of the Nagari Catholic Church in Dhaka, came to Srihotto in 1695, to take care of the Christians there. He died there and his body was taken to Bandel in West Bengal. The mission was discontinued after his death, therefore the number of Christians decreased there while many of them left for Bondashill and Badarpur in India.

Assam Apostolic Prefecture was created in 1898, and Assam and Srihotto were placed under the new Prefecture. The Salvatorist missionaries looked after the area from Assam. They used to reside in Sylhet in 1912, and Fr. Ansger Kenisbaour SDS, Salvatorist, bought a piece of land there. After World War I, in 1918, the Salvatorist Missionaries were asked to leave by the British Government, as they were from Germany. The Jesuit Missionaries who came all the way from Ranchi in India worked here in Assam Prefecture from Guwahati, from the year 1918. From 1923 onwards, the Salesian Missionaries worked in Sylhet from Assam Prefecture.

There are seven parishes in the diocese of Sylhet. At the moment, there are six parishes under the Oblate Fathers and one parish under the Holy Cross Fathers. There are 10,000 Catholics in Srimangal parish under the Holy Cross Fathers. There are three male and five female congregations who serve in this diocese. The priests and religious together are 45 in number. The new diocese has four local priests and the Archdiocese of Dhaka has given two more local priests to the diocese.


There is no separate political structure in the diocesan territory. There are 19 parliamentary seats out of 300, for Sylhet. Citizens elect their representatives to those seats. No serious disruption of democracy is seen in the region. Minorities can vote and take part in politics without any pressure. The people of Sylhet city have the opportunity to elect their mayor for the Sylhet City Corporation.


Sylhet is connected to all parts of the country by land, and to some extent by air. Buses, trains, planes and private vehicles are the main modes of transport to Sylhet city. Roads and highways connect the city to towns and to rural areas of the diocese.


The diocese covers a total 9,807,000 in 12,595.95 sq. km. (4,863.32 sq mi) land area. Sylhet Division, also known as Greater Sylhet or Sylhet region, is the northeastern division of Bangladesh, named after its main city, Sylhet. It is bounded by Meghalaya in the north, Tripura in the south, Assam in the east, Dhaka division in the west, and Chittagong division in the southwest.

Sylhet division is one of the most picturesque and archeologically rich regions of South Asia. Its bourgeoning economy has become a part of the attractions of the region, as landscapes are filled with fragrant orange and pineapple gardens, and breathtaking tea plantations.


The per capita income in the diocesan territory is 35 USD (Sylhet division). Tea cultivation is the main agricultural product and the other agricultural products include rice, rubber, betel-leaf, pineapple, orange etc. A tea labor’s income is 1.5 USD per day.


There are many cell phone service providers, in addition to government and private landline service providers. Cell phones are popularly used in the area.


The literacy rate of the diocesan territory is 40.66% percent.

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