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Diocesan museum to protect Bangladesh’s indigenous heritage

Mymensingh Diocese funded the museum to protect and showcase indigenous culutre and Church's history

Diocesan museum to protect Bangladesh’s indigenous heritage

Some cultural materials are displayed in a museum that Mymensingh Diocese opened Jan. 10 in Bangladesh. The effort aims to protect the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples. (Photo Courtesy: Father Giovanni Gargano, PIME)

A Catholic diocese in Bangladesh has opened a museum to protect the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples and highlight the history of the Church in the region.

Holy Cross Bishop Ponen Paul Kubi of Mymensingh opened the museum on the premises of the bishops’ house on Jan. 10.

The museum primarily aims “to preserve the lifestyle, culture, and heritage of seven indigenous communities” in the diocesan area in north-eastern Bangladesh, said Apurbo R. Mrong, a member of the museum committee.

The effort also wants to pay homage to Catholic missionaries, who began working in the area since the early 20th century, building up the foundation for the Church.

Besides, the museum aims to familiarize new generations of indigenous peoples with their rich culture and heritage, Mrong told UCA News.

The museum was built under the leadership of an 11-member committee with funds from the local Church over two years.

The committee members collected materials for display in the museum from parishes and Catholic homes, said Mrong, regional director of Catholic charity Caritas Mymensingh.

The ground floor of the two-story museum has an auditorium dedicated to Holy Cross Father Eugene Homrich, an American missionary, who worked four decades pioneering socio-economic development among indigenous people in the area. 

The first floor accommodates the museum and a library.

Subash Jengcham, a local Catholic, writer and social activist, said the museum would help preserve the “cultural heritage of indigenous groups that have been on the decline.” 

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“Some heritage of tribal people have already been lost. I hope this effort can preserve and showcase what has been left to future generations,” the 76-year Catholic told UCA News.

Mymensingh has some 81,000 Catholics in a population of some 14 million people. Most Catholics are from ethnic minority including groups such as Garo, Hajong, and Koch tribes, according to the Bangladesh Catholic Directory.

Mymensingh was part of the Dhaka Archdiocese until 1987. It is among four of predominantly indigenous Catholic dioceses in Bangladesh, which has two archdioceses and six dioceses. 

About 90 percent of people in Bangladesh’s 160 million people are Muslims and the Bengali ethnic group makes up about 99 percent of the population. Some 3 million of them belong to more than 45 ethnic minority groups.

Bangladesh has only 600,000 Christians or less than half percent of its population. The majority of Christians are Catholics. 

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