Disabled people in Bangladesh enjoy a friendly environment within the family, society and state but they need more support from able-bodied people to grow properly, a recent inter-faith pilgrimage highlighted. Some 74 disabled people from different faiths along with their guardians attended the annual pilgrimage for them at a popular Marian shrine in Diang, southeastern Chittagong diocese on 3-6 March. Entitled “Joy in the Lord, no fear ahead”, Chittagong diocesan healthcare commission organized the program. Besides common prayer meetings and a Living Way of Cross, four religious leaders and experts spoke to them about teaching in Holy Scriptures for poor and weak people. “Islam’s basic teaching is to ensure equal rights for poor and weak,” said Moulana Yusuf Iqbal, a Muslim and member of Research Institute on Sufism. Father Robert Gonsalves, Diang parish priest agreed. “Jesus Christ was always at the side of the disabled persons. We can’t complete our mission as Christians without following Him,” the priest added. Some of the participants said it is very hard for their poor families to take proper care of them. Roma Sen, 18, a blind Hindu girl, said with regret: “If my family could afford expensive treatment I could become well, it’s not possible because my family is poor.” Muslim mother Taslima Begum always stays at the side of her lame and dumb son Mohammad Ibrahim, 16, to help him walk and respond to his needs. Mentally challenged Shahidul Islam, 12, a Muslim boy leads a risky life day-to-day. He tries to run into the street when a vehicle honks horn. His poor family doesn’t have enough money for treatment. Dhonoronjon Shil, 25, a paralyzed Hindu youth considers himself to be a burden for the family. However, there are some people who have fought their disabilities with help from family and society. “I’ve become blind in my childhood due to wrong treatment when I had diarrhea. But with support from family and financial assistance from Caritas Chittagong I’m studying BA,” said Sukomol Tripura, 20, a tribal Tripura youth. One paralyzed leg didn’t deter Abul Kashem, 29, a Muslim from being self-supported after he had an accident. “I run a tailoring business and became self-reliant,” he said. Chittagong diocese administrator Holy Cross Bishop Lawrence Subrato Howlader noted, “Government education policy promotes equal rights for all even for the disabled, though there are specialized schools for them.” BA13550.1644
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