Bangladesh celebrated the 101st anniversary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's birth. Christians also held a solemn liturgy in honour of the “friend of Bengal”. Independence Day will be celebrated in a few days’ time. Pope Francis is expected to send a video message while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Bangladesh yesterday celebrated the 101st anniversary of the birth of the country's founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, marking also the start of a ten-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of its independence.
Known as Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal), Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the country's undisputed leader, architect of its independence.
Born on 17 March 1920 into a respected Muslim family in Tungipara, a village in present-day Gopalganj district, he was the third of six children (two boys and four girls), of Sheikh Lutfur Rahman and Sheikh Sayera Khatun. As a young man he studied at a Protestant missionary school.
Christians also celebrated the founder’s birthday yesterday with a prayer meeting and a Mass. The initiative was organised by the Bangladesh Christian Association and the Christian Religious Welfare Trust.
At Tejgaon Church in Dhaka, about 300 Catholics and Protestants attended the service for the eternal repose of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“Without his true leadership we would not have this independent country,” said Father Jhlak Anthony Dasai in his homily. “As a missionary school, we are proud of what he learnt from us. His love for the country inspired us all.”
Fr Dasai also urged the faithful to follow Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's ideals to be true patriots.
During the celebration, the President of the Bangladesh Christian Association, Nirmol Rozario, paid tribute to all the freedom fighters who fought against Pakistani soldiers in the war.
“Thanks to their sacrifice we have a flag and an independent country. As a Christian community we hold Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's values dear, to develop the country in peace and prosperity, working with the government.”
Sister Mary Prashanta, of the Associates of Mary Queen of the Apostles, explained to AsiaNews that Bangladesh, step by step, has become a developing country thanks to the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“His words inspired so many people,” she said. “He wanted a secular country and we have to fulfil his dream.”
For Francis D Costa, a Catholic, “Although he is no longer of this world, we hold his teachings in ourselves.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also paid tribute to Bangabandhu, who was her father. To mark the nation’s 50th birthday, a series of initiatives will take place until 27 March.
A number of foreign leaders are expected in Bangladesh. The President of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, is already in Dhaka and took part in yesterday’s celebrations.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to make a two-day visit starting on 26 March.
Other foreign leaders will not be present in person, but will join remotely. Pope Francis is expected to speak on 24 March.