07/15/2019, 14.09
BANGLADESH
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Justice and Peace experts help Catholics to protect their land rights and deal with marital issues

by Sumon Corraya

The Archdiocese of Dhaka organised a three-day seminar. Often minority Christians are the victims of forced expropriations by majority Muslims. Many legal disputes occur in mixed marriages or quick land sales. Spousal disputes are often due to non-consensual marriage in which brides are forced to marry grooms picked by their parents.

Gazipur (AsiaNews) – A three-day seminar ended last Friday in Bhadun, Gazipur (near Dhaka) on land rights and marriage dispute resolution. The meeting was organised by the Bwawan Region Pastoral Council in collaboration with the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Dhaka.

The workshop centred on one of the most sensitive issues for Bangladesh’s Catholic minority, namely land and the frequent forced expropriation by members of the Muslim majority, often with the complicity of the police and the judiciary.

Even more frequently, criminals benefit from their dominant position, aware of the weaknesses of the religious minority whose members often do not report incidents out of fear of retaliation.

The seminar was aimed at providing Catholics with knowledge of the law and raising their awareness of their rights so that they can stand up to the majority. About 90 people from 13 parishes in the archdiocese (out of 30) took part in the meeting.

Fr Albert Thomas Rozario, a lawyer, organised the seminar. "In our region, land is the most difficult issue,” he told AsiaNews. “Many Catholics suffer and many families are completely ruined because they cannot protect their land. We want to protect the lands of those who still own them.”

Fr Albert, parish priest of Dharenda, notes that many disputes arise in mixed marriages, when the Muslim husband wants to take the property of his Christian wife.

In addition, "Sometimes Catholics do not realise the dangers they run when they recklessly sell land to developers for a child’s marriage.”

Legal questions related to marriage are another important issue. "Many people do not know that the marriage can be annulled if the husband or the wife omit important information or if it is non-consensual."

For participants, the workshop was really educational. Jewel Costa, a 37-year-old from Pagar parish, noted that "the problem with Christians is that they are timid. If they do not get justice from the lower courts, they must appeal to the Supreme Court."

For 45-year-old Chemaly Rozario, from Nagari parish, "the course was very useful because I understood how I can save my land".

"We already knew that land disputes could be resolved,” said Bernard Rozario, from Rangamatia. “Now we learnt how to do it. We also realise that most marital problems are due to the lack of consent on the part of brides, whose parents marry them off against their will."

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