ASIA/BANGLADESH - "The secular politics of the Awami League is the key to popular consensus", notes a priest on the eve of the vote

Friday, 5 January 2024 politics   elections   religious minorities  

Dhaka (Agenzia Fides) - "Current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her party, the Awami League, seem to enjoy broad popular support." This is what Father Redon Robert Hadima, a Bangladeshi priest, involved in the field of education as vice-rector of the Interdiocesan Major Seminary of Dhaka, told Agenzia Fides, on the eve of the general legislative elections which will be held in Bangladesh on Sunday, January 7. "The government, in office for 15 years" continues the priest "has tried to address the most important social issues affecting the country - development, poverty, work, climate change - with a certain intelligence, in its relations with citizens and also in its relations with the military. Today, the Awami League enjoys the favor of a large part of the populationof Islamic faith and, given the religious composition of the Bangladeshi population, it is also appreciated by the Christian and Hindu minorities because it has always pursued a policy based on secularism, on a secular vision of public affairs, on the theme of respect for rights, without transferring religion into politics. The first hope, notes the priest, "is that transparent and peaceful elections are organized, since apolitical violence has marked the history of voting in Bangladesh", he recalls. The largest opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), he notes, has called for street protests in recent months, which have also had violent consequences, but it does not appear to have the same roots in Bangladeshi society. Its alliance with fundamentalist Islamic parties alienates it from the sympathy of many citizens, including Muslims, in society."
Within the Awami League, Hadima notes, there are also politicians of Catholic faith, like Jowel Areng, or Jhorna Sarkar, who are already parliamentarians, or like Raymond Areng, who is part of the party's executive council: "That means that there is openness to all citizens and that policies are inspired by shared values", he said, confirming that "ordinary people have confidence in Hasina: generally speaking, the public appreciated the ways in which she faced the challenge of economic development, at a systemic level, and how she tried to fight corruption." One of the issues that touches the reality of Bangladesh is that of poverty which, affirms Father Hadima, "still affects large sections of the population; but progress is being made; we can say that there are no people dying of hunger in the country, the government has put in place several measures to tackle poverty and enable the poor to emancipate themselves or provide for themselves.” In this perspective, there is also the contribution of the Catholic community (the Church has around 400,000 faithful out of 170 million inhabitants), which intervenes mainly in areas such as education, health and development. "It must be said that the current government - notes the priest, former national Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies - has not imposed any restrictions on Catholic organizations that receive economic support from abroad, for their social or religious works. Transparent reports are of course required, but there are no restrictions on obtaining subsidies. This is an important aspect that has allowed the Catholic Church, in all its aspects, to carry out its life, its pastoral and social works in complete freedom and autonomy". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 5/1/2024)