Bearing witness to the Gospel by visiting prisoners
by Sumon Corraya

Bangladesh has more than 88,000 prison inmates against a maximum capacity of 40,000. About 175 are Christians, including 40 foreigners. The prison ministry of the Justice and Peace Commission first met yesterday.


Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh wants to do more serving prison inmates, said Mgr Bejoy N. D’Cruze, Bishop of Sylhet and president of the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue, speaking to AsiaNews.

With this mind, the prison ministry desk of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace (ECJP) first met yesterday. Some 15 people, including two priests, three nuns and two bishops, took part in the meeting.

“What the guns cannot do, nuns can,” said the prelate. “Visiting inmates is important. Some of them are mentally disabled and vulnerable. The Bible teaches us to visit prisoners. It is our moral responsibility to continue this service.”

"In Bangladesh there are 88,211 inmates against a maximum capacity of 40,664. About 44 per cent were sentenced in connection with drugs,” explained ECJP secretary Fr Liton Hubert Gomes, who is also in charge of the prison ministry.

According to the clergyman, "the situation in which prisoners are forced to live is painful, due to the lack of food, water, medicines and other essential items. Our service also has a huge potential to preach God’s message.”

Still, there are “many challenges to our work,” he adds. “For example, prison guards often oppose our entry; in the prisons there is a terrible environment; there is no money."

Over the years, Bishop Bejoy has visited 14 prisons. “Inmates are happy even if they get very little, like when we bring them mustard oil during the winter” to treat a cold.

"I think we should pay more attention to these people. The bishops are also aware of this. We want to visit prisons during religious holidays and bring our service, not only to Christians but also to prisoners of other faiths.”

About 175 Christians are in prison, mostly Catholic, including 40 foreigners and 15 women.

For the bishop, "Through pastoral outreach we can bring Gospel teachings to the faithful of other religions and bear witness to Jesus Christ.”

What is more, “When we love prisoners, Almighty God loves us too. We have a lot of strength and courage: let's use them for these vulnerable people. Small gestures bring great joy.”

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