Bangladesh marks founding father's birth centenary

Catholics defy coronavirus fears to hold special Masses in honor of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Bangladesh marks founding father's birth centenary

A man walks past a countdown clock set up for Mujib Borsho (Mujib Year), the centenary of the birth of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father, in front of parliament on Jan. 14. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)

Christians have joined their countrymen in paying tribute to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father, on his birth centenary amid growing fears over the coronavirus pandemic.

Catholic churches across Bangladesh held special Masses on the morning of March 17 to pay homage to the father of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the ruling Awami League party.

About 700 Catholics attended a Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Tejgaon in central Dhaka, the country’s largest Catholic parish, and took part in a session to reflect on the life and works of “Mujib” organized by Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA) and the Christian Religious Welfare Trust.

“Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was not just a great politician and statesman, but he was a visionary and a man of spirituality. He is our beacon of hope many years after his death, and his love for everyone is our everyday inspiration,” Bishop Shorot Francis Gomes of Dhaka said during his homily.

The Mass and reflection program for Mujib also included an appeal for special prayers as the world shivers from fatalities and panic from coronavirus outbreak, said Father Bulbul A. Rebeiro, secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Social Communication Commission.

“This is difficult moment for the humanity as the world battles the deadly virus. As we pay tribute to the great leader, we have also urged the faithful to pray to God, so God can help Bangladesh and the world to overcome the crisis,” Father Rebeiro told UCA News.

Catholics will plant 400,000 fruit trees across the country as part of the Church’s range of programs during the year, the priest added.

Although the government has advised people to keep a low profile at public gatherings, people were enthusiastic about the birth centenary of the father of the nation, said BCA president Nirmol Rozario.

“The program with a Mass, hoisting of national flag, reflection and cutting of a birthday cake drew a good response from people despite the panic over coronavirus. People defied the odds to pay tribute to the great leader who lived and died for the welfare of all people,” Rozario told UCA News.

Hundreds of Christians will take part in a candlelight procession on the evening of March 17 and join political, social and cultural organizations to place wreaths on a portrait of Mujib in front of his former residence at 32 Dhanmondi in Dhaka, he added.

An official inauguration ceremony of year-long activities for Mujib Borsho (Mujib Year) due to be held on March 17 in National Parade Square in Dhaka was postponed because of Covid-19. It was expected to be attended by 100,000 people including heads of state.

Other state-sponsored events include short films, documentaries, international awards, memorial books and speeches by Mujib in Bengali and English, seminars and cultural functions.  

Bangladesh has detected eight patients with Covid-19, most of them returnees from Italy, the worst-affected European country. More than 2,000 people, mostly returnees from Europe and China, have been put in isolation in home quarantine, health officials said.

The government has shut down all education institutes from March 17-31, banned inbound flights from Europe and China, and sealed off land borders with neighboring India in an attempt to keep the virus at bay.

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