A new parish in the archdiocese of Dhaka, a sign of the vital presence of the Catholic Church in the outskirts of Bangladesh. This is the Divine Mercy Church, inaugurated last November 24th in the presence of the apostolic nuncio, Msgr. George Kocherry, and of Card. Patrick D’Rozario, archbishop of the capital, and some 20 priests.
At the end of the function, Msgr. Kocherry handed a monstrance donated by Pope Francis over to the parish priest. Speaking to Asia News parish priest, Fr. Brien C. Gomes, tells “the joy of the local faithful, about 8 thousand Catholics, who finally have their own parish after having waited 40 years. They will no longer have to travel far to pray and to receive the sacraments ”.
The ceremony was attended by 900 faithful, Muslim nuns and religious leaders. The birth of a new parish in a predominantly Muslim country, says the pastor, “is a positive sign of harmony and dialogue between religions”. It is located in the Gulshan district, home to numerous embassies and characterized by the massive presence of internal migrants.
Here reside “at least 1,000 Catholic families, mostly tribal converts who emigrated from various parts of the country. We have the Garo da Mymensingh community, the Santhals and the Oraos from Rajshahi, the Bengalis from the area of Khulna and Barisal. Most parents are poorly educated and work as servants, in beauty centers, as day laborers or in diplomatic offices. The children instead go to school and have a good level of education ”.
Gulshan is the neighborhood where in 2016 an Islamic commando attacked a restaurant frequented by foreigners, killing 22 people in all, including clients and staff. In the area, explains the parish priest, “we are surrounded by people of other religions, but we have never received threats to our security. Also yesterday, the day when the verdict was announced for the terrorists, nothing happened. It would have been risky if demonstrations had been organized, but everything remained calm ”.
In the past, this suburban church was a sub-parish of the Holy Rosary Church of Tejgaon. The main challenges, continues Fr. Gomes, “are linked to the lack of land, to mixed marriages between the various ethnic groups, to premarital sexual relations.
For example, in the Garo culture there is a particular type of wedding ceremony according to which two young people who spend a night together are considered automatically married, even in the absence of a religious or civil ceremony. It is a widespread practice that we try to fight by changing the mentality, making the value of marriage understood. We insist on the importance of ethics and morals, encouraging participation in catechism in classes dedicated to all ages to spread the teachings of the Gospel “.
The objective is “to support the spirituality of the faithful, so that they do not follow wrong paths, but have a more ethical life”. For this reason the “work of the catechists is important: for now there are two, one Bengali and one Garo”. Among the initiatives he wants to pursue since 2020, there are “a visit to families, the creation of a youth group and a place where they can share experiences of faith and life”.
Regarding dialogue with religions, says Fr. Gomes, “the Church in Bangladesh serves the needs of Muslims and tribals. Christians love everyone in a compassionate way “.
“We hope – he concludes – that the community will grow. We would like to build a larger church, because the current building cannot contain all the parishioners, and a spiritual center for the formation to the sacraments”.