Dhaka (AsiaNews) Easter Sunday for Bangladeshi Christians is a time of ecumenical prayers at dawn, of singing in the villages, of communal meals. But since 1982 Sunday is for them also a working day after Friday was made the official day of rest.
PIME missionaries based in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, talked to AsiaNews about some of the more typical Easter traditions which are drawn from this predominantly Muslim country's well of ancient practices.
One such practice is for early risers. On the cusp of dawn on Easter Sunday, Christians of every denomination meet in a Dhaka park to pray, waiting for the sun to appear. Symbolically people welcome the sun as a sign of the Resurrection. And so suggestive is the ceremony that it draws many people, including Muslims.
In rural villages, dawn sees women go from door to door singing Christ's Resurrection, stopping in front of non Christian homes as well. "It is a tradition inherited from the Portuguese Church," explained one missionary. 'Kirton', songs about the Passion of Christ, is another ancient practice.
This year all the dioceses of the country have decided to focus Easter celebrations on the themes of family and the Eucharist
"As priests" the missionaries said, "we thought that it was necessary to focus on the Eucharistic celebration. Bangladeshi Christians are more sensitive to the adoration part and we must make them understand more the importance of the mass".
In the countryside the opposite is true though because "there are few places of worship and the adoration of the Most Holy is virtually unknown".
What is more, in Bangladesh Christians face practical obstacles to worship. Since 1982, Sunday is in fact another working day after then President Hossain Mohammad Ershad made Friday the weekly day of rest.
For some years, Christian leaders have tried to get the government to declare Easter a national holiday. But a source told AsiaNews that it would be better to wait that other reasons prevail upon decision-makers to make Sunday the day of rest.
"Several Muslims also oppose Friday as the day of rest," the source said, "because it creates problems, especially for those who deal with foreign countries".
"For Muslims," he added, "Friday is a day of prayer in the mosque but does not require any rest".
Bangladesh has a population of over 141 million people: 83 per cent are Muslim, Hindus are 16 per cent; and Christians are 0.7 per cent. (MA)