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Church honors freedom fighters on Bangladesh independence jubilee

Church also celebrates the birth centenary of the nation's founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Church honors freedom fighters on Bangladesh independence jubilee

Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario and Oblate Archbishop Bejoy N. D'Cruze of Dhaka (right) honor a Christian freedom fighter during an event in capital Dhaka to mark the golden jubilee of Bangladesh independence on Dec. 11. (Photo: Piyas Biswas)

Published: December 13, 2021 05:33 AM GMT

Updated: December 14, 2021 03:57 AM GMT

The Catholic Church observed the golden jubilee of the birth of Bangladesh by honoring Christians who fought the War of Independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Church officials conferred a special medal and a certificate of honor on some 40 former guerrilla fighters, representing 419 Christian former guerrillas officially recognized by the state, during a national program in capital Dhaka on Dec. 11.

In addition, 35 individuals representing clergy, religious and laypeople received memorial crests for their significant roles during the war including supporting, sheltering and providing food and medical treatment to freedom fighters and refugees.

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The event marked the golden jubilee of Bangladesh independence and the birth centenary of the nation’s founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the ruling Awami League party.

Oblate Archbishop Bejoy N. D’Cruze of Dhaka presided over the program where Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, the speaker of Bangladesh national parliament, was the chief guest. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and State Minister for Religious Affairs Faridul Haq Khan were special guests, while Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario was the guest of honor.

About 1,000 people including all Catholic bishops of the eight dioceses, leaders and representatives from various parts of the country attended the four-hour program.

Driven by the spirit of patriotism, the Christian community has made great strides in building the fabled Golden Bengal over the past 50 years

Speaker Chowdhury applauded Christians for their sacrifices during the war and great contributions in nation building after independence. He called on all people to build a society based on pluralism.

“We have to pave the way for the history of the next 50 years with inspiration from the past 50 years,” Chowdhury said.

“Bangladesh is known globally as a development miracle thanks to significant social-economic development in the past decades. However, we still have 21 percent ultra-poor people, for whom we must make greater efforts.” 

Home Minister Khan said the Christian community has made great strides to serve the nation, especially in education, health care and social development.

“Christians have set a great example in the cooperative movement in the country. They have been running their cooperative organizations with excellent success,” he said.

Cardinal D’Rozario said that although the Christian community is tiny, by no means is it weak or inferior.

“The Christian community fought valiantly during the liberation war. Driven by the spirit of patriotism, the Christian community has made great strides in building the fabled Golden Bengal over the past 50 years, and Christians are expanding and escalating their efforts,” he said.

Chitta Francis Rebeiro, a Catholic freedom fighter and community leader, hailed the efforts to recognize Christian freedom fighters on the golden jubilee of independence.

“There could be no better occasion than honoring Christian freedom fighters on this auspicious occasion of the country’s 50th anniversary of independence,” said Rebeiro, 76.

About 1,900 Christians directly and indirectly took part in the liberation war, but many were unable to register officially for various reasons, he said, adding that the government need to make efforts to recognize them.

A special cultural display marked the end of the event that featured patriotic songs, dance, a special play by children and documentaries

A souvenir magazine was unveiled during the program. It contains various articles, information and data covering contributions of the Christian community in the independence movement, liberation war and nation building, including their thoughts about society and patriotism.

A special cultural display marked the end of the event that featured patriotic songs, dance, a special play by children and documentaries.

Earlier, on Dec. 10, all Catholic churches held a special Mass to pay tribute to martyrs of the liberation war and to pray for the welfare of the nation.

In 1971, a civil war broke out in eastern Pakistan after the military launched a genocidal crackdown on March 25 to suppress the bubbling independence movement. It came after failed negotiations between the military regime and the Awami League for the transfer of power after the party won the general election on Dec. 7, 1970, by a landslide.

Bangladesh says the Pakistan military aided by Islamist militia groups massacred three million people and raped up to 300,000 women during the war. Some 10 million people became refugees in India.

Bangladeshi liberation forces defeated Pakistan's military with support from India. The day of surrender of the Pakistan military to Bangladesh-India Joint Forces on Dec. 16, 1971, is celebrated as Victory Day.

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