Bishop B.D. Mondal of the Church of Bangladesh, who promoted positive inter-church and inter-faith relations, is pictured (center) here in March 2015 receiving an award marking the 40th anniversary of his ordination as the denomination's bishop. (Photo Courtesy of the Church of Bangladesh)
Bangladeshi Christians have praised a prominent churchman who promoted harmony between churches and religions in the populous Muslim-majority nation.
Bishop Barnabas D. Mondal of the Church of Bangladesh, who was suffering from colon cancer, died in a hospital in the capital, Dhaka, June 29 at the age of 82.
Thousands of Christians attended his funeral service and subsequent burial at Dhaka Christian Cemetery on June 30.
Many wept as they bid farewell to their former shepherd.
Ordained a priest in 1964 of what was formerly the Anglican Church, the man popularly known as B.D. Mondal was consecrated as the first local bishop of Dhaka Diocese and moderator of the Church of Bangladesh in 1975. He retired from active ministry in 2002.
After Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan in 1971, the Anglican Church became the Church of Bangladesh and currently it has three dioceses with about 22,000 members.
Bishop Mondal participated in various national and international ecumenical movements including the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh and the National Churches Fellowship as well as the World Council of Churches.
He also served in the East Asia Christian Conference and the Christian Conference of Asia in the 1960s and 1970s.
He played a vital role in promoting excellence at the College of Christian Theology in Bangladesh.
Bishop Mondal strongly believed in maintaining healthy relations between churches, noted Bishop Shouravh Pholia of Barishal Diocese of the Church of Bangladesh.
“He believed that Christians should live with Christian values and become guiding lights for others. He just didn’t read and preach Christ’s message, but lived with it in his simple, polite and model life,” Bishop Pholia told ucanews.com.
Bishop Mondal also helped poor and marginalized communities, irrespective of caste or creed, by offering them education and socio-economic development, the prelate added.
Oblate Bishop Bejoy D'Cruze of Sylhet Catholic Diocese hailed Bishop Mondal as a great ecumenist and humanist.
"In the late 1970s, when I was a seminarian and studying in a college in Dhaka, I knew him as a simple but inspirational man with great enthusiasm for ecumenism and he worked closely with the Catholic Church," said Bishop D'Cruze, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Commission for Christian Unity and Inter-religious Dialogue.
Bishop Mondal had emphasized that members of various churches were all disciples of Jesus Christ, Bishop D'Cruze said.
The deceased churchman in life even worked with fringe Christian groups he thought were converting people for financial reasons and thereby tarnishing the image of Christians.
This approach was based on trying to change their mindset by getting close to them, Bishop D'ruze recalled.