Dhaka Municipal election: Christians supporting the Awami League candidate
by Sumon Corraya

Atiqul Islam is running in North Dhaka. About 300 Protestants and Catholics, clerics as well as lay people, throw their support behind the party of the country’s prime minister. Caritas Asia president backs fast-paced economic development.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of Dhaka Christians came out yesterday to show their support for Atiqul Islam, who is representing the Awami League (Al) in the race for the post of North Dhaka City Corporation mayor. The election is scheduled for 30 January.

The capital of Bangladesh is divided into municipal bodies, the North Dhaka City Corporation (DNCC) and the South Dhaka City Corporation (SNCC). A total of 14 candidates are running for the two top jobs.  

“Atiqul Islam is a modern person,” said Pankaj Gilbert Costa, president of the Christian Co-operative Credit Union of Dhaka. “To make the city more modern, we have to vote for him.”

Some 300 Christians attended at a press conference with the candidate at a restaurant. Protestant clergymen and lay leaders were also present, but no Catholic priests.

According to Pankaj Gilbert, a lay Catholic, "the only option for making Bangladesh a secular country is the Awami League. I urge Atiqul Islam to support the Christian community in case of victory.”

As the incumbent mayor, Islam expressed gratitude for the support of the Christian community and promised to "remove all difficulties and modernise the city.” Noting that “We have a lot of challenges,” he told those present: “Let us make a new modern Dhaka”. Having “already started some new projects,” he wants voters to “give me more opportunities to deserve your vote.”

The DNCC includes neighbourhoods with an important Christian presence. Islam’s challenger is Tabith Awal from the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The BNP’s Ishraque Hossain and the AL’s Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh are running for the post of mayor in South Dhaka.

Some 3.3 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots in North Dhaka, whilst 2.3 million can do the same in South Dhaka.

Benedict Alo D’Rozario, former executive director of Caritas Bangladesh and current president of Caritas Asia, also attended the meeting.

“The Awami League is doing a lot to develop our country,” he said. “We want this fast pace to continue. This is why we support the party in the municipal elections.”

Rev Philip P Adhikary, founder of the Talitha Koumi Church of Bangladesh, an evangelical Christian organisation, is also an AL supporter. “We have supported the Awami League from the beginning. We must vote for this party and we hope our candidate wins.”

The Protestant prelate especially wants to see the city’s streets cleaned and hawkers removed.

“We support the Awami League for the new generations,” said Nirmol Rozario, one of the organisers of the event. “We believe the party can make Dhaka a better city for Christians.”

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