December 12, 2017
Author: Christopher Cox
A guest post from Rosaline Costa
The blessings of Pope Francis for Bangladesh is a special grace today not only for the Catholic Christian community but as a whole for the people of the country. His presence has been so important today in my opinion because the country has been going through several important and long-term crises – political unrest and power games, human rights violations for the religious minorities, a huge influx of Rohingya refugees, the plight of garment workers, poverty, and, worst of all, the rapid growth of Islamic extremism. Ordinary people, the majority of a population of 160 million people, are helpless. At this very critical time the Pope’s visit to Bangladesh, his speeches, the Holy Mass, meeting with inter-religious groups and the Rohingya representatives have brought a kind of hope, relaxation and peace among people.
In three days of addresses delivered in Bangladesh, never did Pope Francis assert that his visit was only for the Christians, but for all people. He spoke in favor of dialogue, peaceful living together, patience, cooperation, and unity in diverse religious beliefs. The following quotation struck me very deeply:
The words we have heard, but also the songs and dances, that had enlivened our assembly, have spoken to us eloquently of the yearning for harmony, fraternity and peace embodied in the teachings of the world’s religions. May our meeting this afternoon be a clear sign of the efforts of the leaders and the followers of the religions present in this country to live together in mutual respect and goodwill.
He further stressed on the cooperation among people of different faiths. He said:
It is a particularly gratifying sign of our times that believers and all people of good will feel increasingly call to cooperate in shaping a culture of encounter, dialogue and cooperation in the service of our human family. This entails more than mere tolerance. It challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding, and so to build a unity that sees diversity not as a threat, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth. It challenges us to cultivate an openness of heart that views others as an avenue, not a barrier.
Pope Francis spoke indirectly to protect the environment, respect the workers, remembered the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza, among other concerns. While speaking about the political corruption he said, “How much our world needs heart to beat strongly, to counter the virus of political corruption, destructive religious ideologies and the temptation to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, refugees, persecuted minorities and those who are most vulnerable.”
The Pope stressed praying for one another and empathy to preserve peace among people of different faiths. I heard of some non-Christians giving important reactions to the visit of Pope in Bangladesh. Among them, some Muslim youths expressed their heartfelt hope that the Pope’s visit will bring unity and cooperation among people.
I feel also that no other religious leader would carry as much influence as Pope Francis did in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Previously, no other religious leader was approached by wide swaths of people. Yes, the Dalai Lama is one, but I have not seen him surrounded by massive and diverse people like Pope Francis during his Papal Visit in South Asia.
I am sure this visit will bring changes among the ordinary people but I have a question in my mind how long our Catholic and Christian religious leaders and the political leaders will be able to preserve memorable events. Will they be as before, running after power, name and fame, instead of thinking for the people for whom they have been called, or will they have heart to put into practice in their own life of what Pope has said and something of the life that he leads?
Rosaline Costa has worked at the office of the Justice, Peace and Human Rights under the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh for 30 years, from June 1986 up to the date she left Bangladesh in early July 2016. The Commission’s working area was not only in Bangladesh but South and South-East Asia also. During this time, Rosaline worked extensively for women garment workers, on issues of child labor, and on behalf of religious and ethnic minorities.