Updated: October 25, 2021 09:21 AM GMT
Young Catholic girls perform a traditional dance during a Christian youth gathering in Tejgaon in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on Oct. 23 to mark 50 years of the country's independence and the birth centenary of its founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. (Photo supplied)
A senior government minister has urged young Catholics in Bangladesh to become good citizens and contribute to society and the nation by embracing pluralism and denouncing extremism.
“Take religiosity to your heart and reject religious fundamentalism and build the society and the nation based in the spirits of our great War of Independence. Young people have great potentials to construct a non-communal Bangladesh on the basis of pluralism and harmony,” said A.K.M. Mozammel Haque, minister of Liberation War affairs.
Haque, a senior parliamentarian from the ruling Awami League party, made the appeal in his speech as the chief guest during a Catholic youth gathering at the Church Community Center at Tejgaon in capital Dhaka on Oct. 23. The event was organized by the Regional Pastoral Council of Dhaka Archdiocese.
Some 450 young Catholics from five parishes in Dhaka attended the program to mark the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father, and the 50th anniversary of the country gaining independence from Pakistan.
Participants attended Mass, cut a cake, lit candles and hosted a cultural show to mark the anniversaries.
Our services in education, health and social welfare have benefited numerous people, cutting across faiths, ethnicity, gender and class
Archbishop D’Cruze said that despite being a small minority Christians made significant contributions during the Liberation War and in the aftermath played a pivotal role in nation building through great services in education, health care and social development.
“Christians are proud that some 2,000 Christians participated in the War of Independence against Pakistan's military and there was no razakar (traitor) in the Christian community who opposed freedom for Bangladesh,” Archbishop D’Cruze said.
“Our services in education, health and social welfare have benefited numerous people, cutting across faiths, ethnicity, gender and class. Christians continue to serve the nation in the spirit of patriotism.”
Catholic MP Sarker also called on young Christians to live the spirit of harmony and participate in activities to develop society and the nation.
“Christians demonstrated remarkable bravery and dedication during the Liberation War and they have helped Bangladesh become a better nation. I have great hope in young Christians who can contribute even more as we move ahead with development,” she said.
Arnob C. Rozario, 22, a young Catholic from Holy Rosary Church in Tejgaon, said the program was encouraging and inspiring.
“The pandemic has put all people including youth under huge stress. The program offered young people like me a big relief from monotony. I really liked how the guests encouraged us to become good citizens and contribute to the nation by using our talents,” Rozario told UCA News.
“Young Christians need to be in touch with the Church and learn how they can be sympathetic to others by doing good to those who are less fortunate. We can express our love and concerns for all and never disrespect others.”
Hundreds of Christians including three priests were also killed by the army during the crackdown
During the British Partition of India in 1947, the Muslim-majority eastern part of Bengal province became part of newly created Pakistan.
However, social, economic, cultural and political oppression by Pakistan’s ruling political and military establishments of Bengali people sparked a political movement for self-determination and independence.
A genocidal crackdown on Bengali people by Pakistan's army to defeat the independence movement triggered nine months of bloody civil war, leaving about 3 million dead and 10 million refugees fleeing to India, according to Bangladesh’s official records. Hundreds of Christians including three priests were also killed by the army during the crackdown.
Bangladesh liberation forces defeated the military with support from India and the Instrument of Surrender was signed on Dec. 16, 1971.
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