Dhaka (AsiaNews) – More than 2,000 Catholics took part in a grand ceremony in Dhaka to commemorate the work of Archbishop Lawrence L. Graner and Fr Charles J Young, both missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
Archbishop Graner realised so many decades ago that missionary work for the poor could be better done if the latter were provided with some degree of economic freedom. With this in mind, he sent Fr Young to Canada to learn about member-owned financial cooperatives.
Therefore 60 years ago, after the latter came back, the two clergymen established Bangladesh’s the Christian Cooperative Credit Union Ltd on 3 July 1955, the first Christian financial institution of its kind in the country.
The initial capital was 12.5 rupees with 50 members. Now it has 3.58 billion takas (US$ 46 million) and 32,120 members.
Eventually, its name was informally shortened to Dhaka Credit, but it has remained the first example of solidarity-based economic activity by the country’s Christians. Thanks to its success, every Catholic parish as well as some Protestant communities set up their own credit unions.
Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, speaker of the Jatiyo Sangsad or national parliament, was present at the commemoration. Speaking about the missionaries’ initiative in glowing terms, she said, "This institution successfully reached 60 thanks to its honest management and action. We back this kind of initiatives, which help eliminate poverty in the country." In her view, the Dhaka Credit should be encouraged "to implement new programmes to help people earn more."
As one of Bangladesh’s largest financial institutions, the credit union provides loans to thousands of Christians. Such financial help comes in handy to scores of members who can open their own retail businesses or even students who can pay for the high cost of education.
"I got a loan and invested the money in my transport company,” said Tapon Gansalves, a credit union member. “Right now I have 16 three-wheeled vehicles."
"I am truly grateful to Dhaka Credit,” he said, “because I would have never succeeded in my business without its help." indeed, his success has inspired others, including young people, to pursue a career in the same trade.
In view of this, on 19 June, the credit union signed a memorandum of intent with the archdiocese of the capital. Archbishop Patrick D'Rozario, of the Congregation of the Holy Cross and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB), gave land to the bank to build a hospital dedicated to the Divine Mercy.
Through its loan programme, the Christian Cooperative Credit Union funds English classes, medical care, education, hotels, and ambulances. A hospital and a medical school are also in the works.