In the north of the country, many tribal catechumens received the sacrament during the rites of Holy Week. “In the past, I loved nature, the sun and the trees,” said one, “but now I can address Jesus directly.” For another, “A Christian’s life is simple,” and Christians “love others.”
Rajshahi (AsiaNews) – More than 300 people, mostly adults, were baptised at Easter in several parishes in the Diocese of Rajshahi, northern Bangladesh, where missionaries, local and foreign, are active in promoting the Kingdom of God.
Father Arturo Speziale, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), told AsiaNews that he employed seven catechists, including two women, who prepared the new Catholics for about a year.
“A total of 46 new believers received baptism in the village of Borshapara on Easter Sunday,” he said. “Our catechists played a vital role in bringing them to Christianity.”
Father Speziale is assistant pastor in Nobai Bottola, a parish in the Diocese of Rajshahi. His seven catechists belong to local tribes and were able to reach local villages, teach the Bible and preach in local languages.
After their passage, nuns and priests visited the catechumens’ villages and won over their hearts, so little by little, more and more faithful came to Christianity.
Some children from Christian families were also baptised in the same parish at Easter.
Now 80 years old, Father Speziale has been working as a missionary in Bangladesh for 50 years. He said that his catechists are following another 100 families who could receive the baptism next year.
Father Michael Corraya, Nobai Bottola’s parish priest, also spoke about his feelings of baptising people of other religions.
“I was very happy to see adults receive the baptism from me,” he explained. “These people freely chose Christianity. In the past they worshipped nature and trees; now they understand the importance of Christianity and eagerly received the baptism.”
The new Christians are ethnic Santal, Orao and Paharia from local tribal communities.
Father Swapan Martin Purification, parish priest in Bhutahara, Naogaon district, told AsiaNews that 114 adults were baptised in his parish on Easter eve and Easter Sunday. He confirmed that more than 300 people have been baptised in the Diocese of Rajshahi.
Some new believers spoke to AsiaNews about the reasons that led them to welcome Jesus Christ as the Lord.
“In the past, I loved nature, the sun and the trees,” said Subash Hembrom, a catechumen baptised in Borshapara. “Our thakur (Hindu priest) acted on my behalf; now instead I can address Jesus directly and get an answer in prayer.”
He did not know the prayers of his old religion before, but catechists taught him and members of his family the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and other Christian prayers, which he likes.
Anita Akka, another convert, said she liked the lives of Christians a lot. “I saw that a Christian’s life is simple, that they (Christians) love others, teach love and forgiveness. I learnt that only Jesus Christ can give us salvation. So I received the baptism.”