Youth Day fosters unity in Bangladesh

Young people learned to live the gospel and appreciate other cultures through dance, prayer
Youth Day fosters unity in Bangladesh

Young Catholic women perform a traditional dance to welcome guests and participants at the 32nd National Youth Day at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bonpara Feb. 17. (Photo by the Episcopal Commission for Youth, Bangladesh)

Church leaders have appealed to young Catholics to practice the gospel and celebrate Bangladesh's diverse cultural landscape in order to create a better church and society.

Some 400 college and university students, three bishops, dozens of priests, nuns, brothers and animators attended the 32nd National Youth Day celebrations at Our Lady of Lourdes Church at Bonpara in Rajshahi Diocese on Feb. 17-21.

Participants included members from the majority Bengali community and ethnic indigenous groups such as the Garo, Santal, Tripura, Oraon and Paharia.

The four-day event included a rally, prayer, meditation, themed talks, cultural programs and sharing sessions.    

The Catholic bishops' Episcopal Commission for Youth organized the program, "Joyful Asian Youth! Living the Gospel in Multicultural Asia," which is also the theme for the upcoming Asian Youth Day to be held in Yogyakarta in Semarang Diocese, Indonesia July 30-Aug. 6.

Bangladesh's annual National Youth Day is a weeklong festival to celebrate faith through song, dance, prayer and the sharing of experiences. 

 

Young Catholics participate in a rally during the 32nd National Youth Day  in Bonpara, Natore district on Feb. 18. (Photo by the Episcopal Commission for Youth, Bangladesh)

 

Youth are the future

"Young people are our hope. They must become the salt and light for the church, society and nation by living the gospel in everyday life, by spreading love and by overcoming the temptations and challenges of life," said Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, vice-president of the Catholic bishop's Conference of Bangladesh.

Holy Cross Brother Uzzal Placid Pereira, secretary of the youth commission said the event was designed to boost the faith of young people and help them revitalize their spirit to live as Christians in a culturally and religiously diverse society like Bangladesh.

"Like our country, the Catholic Church is also multicultural but we often don't realize and value our rich cultural and traditional heritage and we remain unaware of how we can live the gospel by celebrating various cultures. This is what inspired us to take up the theme and design the program," Brother Pereira told ucanews.com.

 

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Church leaders and guests release balloons to mark the beginning of the 32nd National Youth Day at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bonpara, Feb. 18. (Photo by the Episcopal Commission for Youth, Bangladesh)

 

Let them lead the way

"It was a great time for both Bengali and indigenous young people to gather and get to know each other better through prayer, meetings and cultural programs. We have learned how to deepen our faith and live everyday life based on the gospel and church teachings by celebrating our cultural heritage," William Nokrek, a Garo Catholic and president of Bangladesh Catholic Student Movement told ucanews.com.

Sraboni Florence Rozario, a participant from Dinajpur Diocese said that the event inspired her to respect other cultures.

"I belong to the Bengali community and I live in a predominantly indigenous area but I was never much concerned about the culture of indigenous people. Now, I realize there are many good things in each culture that we can appreciate," she said.

In Bangladesh, some 90 percent of its 160 million people are Muslims. Hindus make up the largest minority group, accounting for 9 percent and the rest belong to other faiths including Buddhism and Christianity. An estimated 350,000 Catholics make up most of the country's Christians and about half of them hail from various indigenous groups.

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