(AsiaNews) – Bearing witness to the Word of God for the past 15 years among
Bangladesh’s most isolated and less known Christian communities through work
apostolate and education has led to the establishment of five centres in north
and northeast Dhaka, where the Brahmaputra River (known as Jamuna in
Bangladesh) flows into the Ganges.
the usual religious functions, these centres offer the services of a vocational
school and a hostel for tribal Koch and Garo people. They must develop however a
new pastoral approach to respond to the country’s rapid evolution. For this
reason, representatives from these centres came together for the first time on
9 May at a meeting where, Mgr Patrick D’Rosario, archbishop of Dhaka, recognised
their status as a new pastoral region.
light of Bangladesh’s industrial development in the early 1990s and the rapid
urbanisation that followed, the arrival of large numbers of young people from
rural areas in search of work has generated a new labour force made up of largely
unskilled workers unprepared for the challenges that face them.
the same time, some 15 years ago Fr Dominic Rozario, a Bangladeshi priest who
taught at the theological seminary in Dhaka, began visiting Christian families living
in isolated areas where no Christians were thought to live. Quickly, he established
relations with these people. Expressing an interest in Sunday Mass, some
indigenous Koch and Garo tried to get in touch with him.
Carlo Dotti, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions
(PIME), joined Fr Rozario in celebrating the liturgy, later followed by another
PIME missionary, Fr Gian Paolo Gualzetti, who was working in Mirpur, on the
northern outskirts of Dhaka, an area that was undergoing rapid urbanisation in
Rozario had his first practical results in Mirpur, an area where factories were
opening on a daily basis. Here Fr Gualzetti opened up his church to young men
and women coming to town looking for work, including students at a technical
school in Dinajpur run by Brother Massimo Cattaneo.
the two missionaries bought some land where they set up the Jesus Worker Centre
that included a vocational school and a hostel for people preparing to enter
the same time, Frs Angelo Canton and Gianantonio Baio, both PIME missionaries,
opened two other centres in Kewachala, northern Dhaka.
the beginning, only small groups of tribal people and Bangladeshi Christians went
to these centres for the basic education they offered. Eventually, their mission
opened up to non-Christians coming to the city in search of work from isolated
Arturo Speziale (PIME) set up the latest centre. It includes two hostels and
caters to a fishing community on the Brahmaputra. Converted and later abandoned
by Baptist missionaries, these fishermen and their families helped Fr Speziale come
into contact with indigenous Koch.
the assistance of local nuns, he was able to open a school providing a basic education
to tribal boys and girls, each housed in their separate hostel.