ASIA/BANGLADESH - In the figure of the Pope, believers desire to "touch Jesus"

Thursday, 30 November 2017 evangelization   youth   islam   pastoral visit   pope francis   religious minorities   religious freedom  

Dacca (Agenzia Fides) – Thanks to the visit and presence of Pope Francis in Bangladesh, a nation facing numerous difficulties as well as political and social challenges, “the little flock of Bangladeshi Catholics desires to draw near to Jesus Christ and have a direct and concrete experience of the Gospel ": Fides learned from Fr. Lintu Francis D'Costa, a priest in the Catholic diocese of Dacca.
The priest explains: "the Bangladesh has an old history and a new national identity. It became independent from Pakistan only in 1971 and with a population of more than 160 million is the world’s seventh country for number of inhabitants. A most urgent problem is the poverty. A large part of the population, circa 36 %, lives in conditions of extreme poverty with an income of a little over 1,000 dollars a year".
Bangladesh experiences "social tensions due to a decline in farming and increase in the production of chemical fertilizers and textiles; businesses from various parts of the world install production here and exploit low labour costs. This and other economic reasons - Fr. D'Costa explains- causes massive migration towards the cities and disintegration in villages and rural areas where there remain only the elderly and other sectors of the population less inclined to innovation and change".
Another of the country’s characteristics is the presence of different religious traditions: about 90% of the people are followers of Islam, but there are also Hindu Buddhist and Christian communities. "And it is precisely the small Christian community, about 400,000 – the priest adds – that sees the arrival of Pope Francis as a unique opportunity to come into contact with the universal church, to experience the humanity of the Vicar of Jesus Christ. As Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario underlined, the faithful are anxious to experience the presence of the Pope, to have in their midst a holy man, a representative of God on earth”.
Fr. D'Costa explains: " Christians here live their faith and bear witness to the Gospel in a land where they are a very small community. The Pope’s visit will not fail to be a source of encouragement for them. The Catholic Church in Bangladesh grows steadily and is appreciated for the humanitarian, social and cultural services she offers to the entire population without distinction of ethnic origin or religious belonging. Particular care is reserved for poor and marginalised people. In this sense the visit of Pope Francis is a pilgrimage at the heart of the message of God’s love for every human person".
The visit is important also for Bangladeshi who are not Christians: "The figure of Pope Francis is that of a leader credible in attitude and initiatives. He represents the voice of the conscience of the world and a call for humanity without divisions, where peace and love for others are ideals to which everyone can and should aspire. All this encourages interreligious dialogue and serves to improve relations between people of the different religions ".
Most important, the priest concludes, will be Pope Francis’ encounter with young Bangladeshis: "The Pope will address university students and young workers, this means he will address the future rulers of this country. An important choice since young people under 25 make up 60% of the population of Bangladesh ". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 30/11/2017)