December 12, 2017
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.
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?
October 10, 2017
Yesterday, the Vatican Press Office released the program for the Apostolic Visit of His Holiness Francis to Myanmar and Bangladesh (November 26 to December 2, 2017). The full calendar can be found here.
Here at The Human Thread, we have our eyes focused on this visit. Catholic News Service has a summary of the highlights of the program here. While nothing on the official calendar commits Pope Francis to speaking directly about the conditions of garment workers, he will be visiting the National Martyrs’ Memorial in Savar, the same community northwest of Dhaka where the Rana Plaza building once stood.
For obvious reasons, the ongoing Rohingya crisis will dominate the headlines, but Pope Francis’ visit to two extremely poor countries will likely elevate solidarity, care for creation, and human rights in unexpected ways.
September 09, 2017
Currently, Pope Francis is visiting Colombia. One of his stops will be Cartagena and the shrine of St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit priest, on the day after his feast day. In fact, his final public event in Colombia is a Mass in the evening at the seafront in Cartagena, during which the remains of St. Peter Claver and St. Maria Bernarda Bütler, a Swiss Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, who also worked there, will be exposed.
Peter Claver was born to a prosperous family in Verdu, Spain, and earned his first degree in Barcelona. He entered the Jesuits in 1601. When he was in Majorca studying philosophy, Claver was encouraged by Alphonsus Rodriguez, the saintly doorkeeper of the college, to go to the missions in America. Claver listened, and in 1610 he landed in Cartagena, Colombia. After completing his studies in Bogotá, Peter was ordained in Cartagena in 1616.
Cartagena was one of two ports where slaves from Africa arrived to be sold in South America. Between the years 1616 and 1650, Peter Claver worked daily to minister to the needs of the 10,000 slaves who arrived each year.
As soon as a slave ship entered the port, Peter Claver moved into its infested hold to minister to the ill-treated and exhausted passengers. After the slaves were herded out of the ship like chained animals and shut up in nearby yards to be gazed at by the crowds, Claver plunged in among them with medicines, food, bread, brandy, lemons, and tobacco. With the help of interpreters he gave basic instructions and assured his brothers and sisters of their human dignity and God’s love. During the 40 years of his ministry, Claver instructed and baptized an estimated 300,000 slaves. Claver said, “We must speak to them with our hands before we speak to them with our lips.”
In the last years of his life Peter was too ill to leave his room. The ex-slave who was hired to care for him treated him cruelly, not feeding him many days, and never bathing him. Claver never complained. He was convinced that he deserved this treatment.
In 1654 Peter was anointed with the oil of the Sacrament of the Sick. When Cartagenians heard the news, they crowded into his room to see him for the last time. They treated Peter Claver’s room as a shrine, and stripped it of everything but his bedclothes for mementos. At the age of 73, Claver died September 7, 1654.
St. Peter Claver was canonized in 1888. His memorial is celebrated on September 9.
When we look upon today’s slaves as anything else than fellow human beings and gifts of God, we view them as commodities to be bought and sold. We deprive them of their dignity. These are the poor and vulnerable who are forced, coerced, or by economic choice enter into a very dark underworld that enmeshes at least 21 million people on our planet today.
Like Saint Peter Claver, let us see the “Christ” within each and every person, especially those who are the world’s modern slaves, like many who make our clothes. Indeed, St. Peter Claver, a patron saint for victims of human trafficking, is a saint for garment justice.
O God, who made Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves and strengthened him with wonder charity and patience as he came to their help, grant, through his intercession, that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ, we may love our neighbor in deeds and in truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
June 06, 2017
Everyone’s existence is tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 15, 2017
We strongly agree. Globalized indifference blinds us to The Human Thread that weaves us together. #WhoMadeMyClothes