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Christ the King feast unifies Khasia tribals

Sister Shilpi Rozario,  Moulovibazar

Sister Shilpi Rozario, Moulovibazar

Updated: November 23, 2010 04:34 AM GMT
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Khasia people welcome Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes of Dhaka at the Christ the King celebration
Khasia people welcome Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes of Dhaka at the Christ the King celebration
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Members of the Khasia tribe, be they Catholics or Protestants, look forward to the Christ the King feast. As the time for the celebration arrives, thousands of Khasia tribals who have settled in the hilly parts of Sylhet, southeastern Bangladesh, gather as in ancient times to honor their king and god. “The Christ the King feast is a very meaningful celebration for Khasia people. Each culture has its own beauty and I’m amazed to see they have found and experienced their traditional God in Christ,” said Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes of Dhaka. Bishop Gomes along with the two first Khasia priests in Bangladesh celebrated the feast  using  the local language, music and dances at Lokhipur parish, about 300 kilometers away from Dhaka Nov. 20-21. “They (Khasia people) are very close to nature. Traditional offerings of betel nuts and leaves express their deep faith in God, and enrich the liturgy,” said the Holy Cross bishop. The Feast of Christ the King, is traditionally a Catholic festival to honor the all-embracing authority of Christ as King and Lord of the cosmos. It is celebrated on the final Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Sunday before Advent. In 2010, the feast fell on Nov. 21. The festival is also observed in Lutheran, Anglican, and other Protestant churches. “In our old religion, Khasia used to offer common Shadwaiking dance to their traditional God as a way to thank and praise him for the year round blessings. When we embraced Christianity, Christ became the Lord and King and the feast eventually turned into His feast,” said Nehru Lamin. He explained that in the old days, Khasia people used to offer Spong (white cap) and Kuweangko (betel nuts garland) to honor their king. Now they do the same to the portrait or statue of Jesus and special guests. While the betel nut garland symbolizes equality, a bamboo gate specially constructed for the event is believed to be blessed by Jesus and thus reserves to Him the right to enter. Therefore the Christ the King feast not only became a celebration to express cultural and traditional richness of Kashia people, but  also a source of solidarity. “Whether they are Catholic or Protestant, they inherit the feast as of their very own cultural and traditional practices. It unites them and express their unique ethnic existence,” said Oblate Father Dilip Sarker. “I like seeing Khasia people pray, eat, talk and work together. So I love to join this special feast. It helps us keep our own ethnic identity alive,” said Dipti Dhar, 20, a Protestant college student. When Christian evangelization took place throughout the 19th Century, 70 percent of about 30,000 Khasia in Bangladesh became Christians with majority being Catholics. The Khasia tribal people have taken to cultivating betel leaves, nuts and lemons for their livelihood. Related reports Khasia tribal people get own Catholic priests Prayer brings tribal Catholics and Presbyterians together BA12094.1629

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