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Book lists Christian contributions to local literature


June 10 2009

The first of a two-volume bibliography listing centuries of Christian contributions to Bengali literature has been published.


Cover of the first volume of the bibliography

The Catholic Bishops´ Christian Communications Center (CCC) launched the 536-page book, "Bibliography of Christians of Bengal," which lists 4,000 Christian publications in Bengali and Roman script, on June 5. The publications were written between 1715 and 1991.

The second volume of the bibliography will list books published after 1991, and is set to be published next year.

"This reference book will be very helpful for researchers studying the history of the Bengali language, literature and contributions of Christians in Bengal (now Bangladesh)," said Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi at the launch at the National Press Club in Dhaka.

The prelate, who is chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications, added that a copy of the bibliography "will be kept in Holy Spirit National Major Seminary for further research work by future priests."

Among the books listed are "Kripar Shastrer Orthobhed" by Portuguese missioner, Father Manuel da Assumpsao, a catechism in question-answer format, published in 1743 and written in Roman script.

Also included is the work of English Baptist missioner William Carey, who translated the Bible into Bengali. He also wrote many books including "A Dictionary of the Bengali Language," and developed the first Bengali typeface for printing.

The bibliography was compiled by the CCC over the last 14 years under the supervision of Holy Cross Father Benjamin Costa, project chairman and principal of the Church-run Notre Dame College in Dhaka. CCC director Father Kamal Corraya was project director.

"Christians can take pride in the publication of this book," declared Anisuzzaman, former head of Dhaka University´s history department, at the launch. Anisuzzaman, guest of honor at the event, added that he would like to convey his appreciation to everyone behind the publication.

When Christian missioners arrived in Bengal in the 16th and 17th centuries, they found that Bengali literature was written in a highly sophisticated way which common people found difficult to understand.

The Christians then decided to promote a more colloquial and simplified form of the language as part of their mission.

Since then a number of Christian missioners and writers have contributed immensely to the field of Bengali literature, according to Church people. Thousands of books, periodicals and other publications have been published, but unfortunately, many have not been well-preserved.

About 150 people attended the launch of the bibliography. They included retired Jesuit Bishop Linus Gomes of Baruipur diocese in eastern India, leaders of various Christian denominations and university lecturers.