Young Bangladeshi Catholics promote book reading

Voluntary group honors heroes of the Bangla language movement on International Mother Language Day
Young Bangladeshi Catholics promote book reading

A Catholic priest and a nun inaugurate a book fair organized by Boiyer Daak (Call of Books) on Feb. 21. (Photo supplied)

An organization of young Catholics held a special program including a book fair and commemorational event to pay tribute to Bangla language movement heroes on International Mother Language Day.

Boiyer Daak (Call of Books), a voluntary group based in Chorakhola village under St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Gazipur district of central Bangladesh, observed the day on Feb. 21 in the presence of thousands of villagers and guests including church officials and local politicians.

The program included a Mass, a rally to pay formal tributes to language martyrs, an art competition, a cultural function, a book fair and sharing of memories from freedom fighter guerrillas who linked the 1952 Bangla language movement with the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence from Pakistan.

“For two years now, we have organized this event because the Bangla language movement is very closely connected with our language and literary heritage. For us, it is part of our movement to promote book-reading habits among villagers, especially the younger generation,” Pronob Stephen Costa, 27, one of the organizers, told UCA News.

Chorakhola is a village with about 2,000 Catholics and is prominent for preserving and promoting various cultural and religious traditions like Kosther Gaan (Songs of Suffering) and Jishu Neela (Passion Play of Jesus), staged during the Lenten season.

In 2007, a group of educated and cultured Catholics led by accountant Dilip Thomas Rozario paved the way for Boiyer Daak.

The movement originated from the realization that “people of our country are far behind in comparison to developed countries, and even neighboring countries, in terms of reading habits, so it goes for our native village also,” Rozario told UCA News.

Boiyer Daak aims to motivate villagers to read books, newspapers, magazines, periodicals and articles through a range of activities while inspiring other villages to replicate this model, he said.

“Instead of expecting people to come to books, let the books go to people,” Rozario added. 

Initially, the group started with 25,000 taka (US$295) funding from individual and organizational donations and a five-member group of Boiseboks (Servants of Books) to develop the movement.

Keeping aside some money for emergencies, the initial fund was used for buying books and book shelves, while the group found a free space to set up an office-cum-library at the premises of a youth club in the village.

There are six current Boiseboks including Pronob Costa and they run the group in accordance with operational guidelines, which include collection of free books from individuals and organizations and lending books to people every Friday.

Boiyer Daak’s library has about 400 books and more than 500 people have obtained free services.

“Individuals and well-wishers from the village, at home and abroad, have been supporting us. Indirectly, we also have backing from the local Church, church-run schools, cooperatives and youth organizations,” Costa said.

In the modern age with declining reading habits, Boiyer Daak is a great initiative that church groups and social organizations can follow, said Father Bulbul A. Rebeiro, secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Social Communication Commission.

“In order to increase reading habits among children and adolescents, we plan to launch a creative competition. The competition will focus on how many books they can read and return with feedback. This competition can be linked up with schools and colleges. Thus, students will grow up with reading habits and as grown-ups they will have the habit of spending money on books,” Father Rebeiro told UCA News.

“Educated and learned people including writers also have a moral obligation. When they offer gifts to children, they can start giving them books. Then they can come back to them to know what they have learned from the books. This interactive way can improve reading habits among the younger generation.”

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