The American missionary, founder of the first Christian cooperative credit bank in the country, died in a car accident in 1988. His intuition to provide small bank loans changed the lives of 10 million poor people. A Foundation that bears his name has been set up to conduct market research and provide scholarships.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of people gathered yesterday at the Catholic church in Tejgaon, Dhaka, to honour the memory of Fr Charles J Young, an American missionary who died 31 years ago in a car accident.
The clergyman brought microcredit to Bangladesh, founding the first bank – Christian Cooperative Credit Union Ltd (CCCUL) in Dhaka – that would make small loans to the poor. Today 10 million people have benefitted from the advantages of the credit model he created.
Fr Young died tragically on 14 November 1988. Yesterday, Fr Subrato Boniface Gomes celebrated a memorial Mass in his honour.
At the end of the service, hundreds of cccul employees paid tribute to him by laying flowers on his grave, which is located in the cemetery next to the church, and saying a prayer.
The parish priest stressed the importance of the missionary's intuition of “bringing the microcredit movement to Bangladesh. Success bred more success. After him people of different faiths opened other credit unions. Thus, he has made a decisive contribution to the socio-economic development of the country.”
Born in New York in 1904, Fr Young entered the Holy Cross Seminary in September 1923. He was ordained in 1928 and the following year he graduated from Notre Dame University (Indiana, US) where he became the chaplain in 1933.
Later he was sent to East Bengal (later Bangladesh) as a missionary to serve in Dhaka and Mymensingh. In 1953 the then archbishop of the capital, Mgr Lawrence Leo Graner, sent him to Canada to study microcredit cooperatives. In 1955 he returned to Dhaka and set up the Christian financial institution.
His philosophy of helping with small loans has become so widespread that today there are at least 250 credit unions across the country, usually associated with parishes, schools and universities.
“On behalf of the 42,000 members of the bank, I pay tribute to our founder,” said CCCUL President Babu Markus Gomes. “Most of us have had a different life thanks to him.”
Sabaj Gomes, a Catholic businessman, agrees. "I owe all my success to the loan the bank gave me. I had been looking for work in Dhaka for a long time, but nobody wanted to hire me. I finally asked for a loan and invested it in the clothing trade. Now my company is prosperous.”
Nirmol Gomes too was “out of work. I asked for money and spent it on a driving course. Thanks to this I found a job.”
Today the bank’s capital is 7 billion taka (US,638,500) with 600 employees. Yesterday, on the anniversary of Fr Young’s death, the bank created a foundation named after him tasked to do research on microcredit, offer scholarships and provide social assistance.
For Nirmol Rozario, president of the Central Association of Christian Credit Union Limited and a CCCUL consultant, “Fr Young died at the age of 84 in a tragic accident, but he will live far longer thanks to his work.”