Two years ago, the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace began prison visits for Christian inmates. Bangladesh has 68 prisons. About 175 Christians are behind bars, 40 of them foreigners. The Church provides them with spiritual and legal support.
Gazipur (AsiaNews) – Christian inmates "need spiritual care. They are the ones who ask us to visit him and are happy when we do,” said Fr Liton Hubert Gomes, speaking to AsiaNews.
The clergyman brings the Eucharist to 11 Christians serving time in a prison in Kashampur, Gazipur, north of Dhaka. Before him, no one cared for Christian inmates.
"When Fr Liton comes to celebrate Mass and I receive the Eucharist, I feel an immense peace," said a tearful prisoner, Raphael Gomes.
Bangladesh has 68 prisons. Two years ago, the Prison Ministry of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace begun to visit Christian inmates.
About 175 Christians are behind bars, 40 of whom foreigners. This last group "is made up of people from Africa, India, Germany and Spain. Most are imprisoned for trafficking in gold, financial scams or illegal entry permits,” Fr Liton explained.
“We have recently helped seven Indians get released and return to their country. We work to ensure that they get justice and spiritual care," he added.
“At first we didn’t get permission to enter,” he noted. “For 15 days, I and a Caritas staff member came to the jail but couldn’t enter. Later, thanks to the help of a higher authority, we got permission and now can work with prisoners. We give them counselling, support and pray with them.”
Visits last for an hour and a half. At the last meeting, the priest was accompanied by two Holy Cross seminarians. He celebrated Mass, read passages from the Bible, sang songs, shared some sweet and gave them new "lungi" (a type of sarong worn by men in South Asia).
One the inmate, Raphael, was a drug addict convicted of murder. “One day I was caught by police. Police falsely charge me with murder,” he said.
Another Christian, Nirmol Sangma (not his real name), from the diocese of Mymensingh, and his brother were sentenced to death for rape. "We are innocent,” they say. “We are victims of a conspiracy. We have been accused by a Muslim who wanted our land.”
The Prison Ministry also helps prisoners by listening to their complaints and trying to get evidence to show injustices against Christians. The latter are often innocent victims kept behind bars because they cannot afford bail or lawyers’ fees.
"We are doing everything we can to obtain justice. Several Christian NGOs are helping us. We have hope," Fr Liton said regarding the case of Nirmol and his brother.