About nine thousand young people met with Pope Francis at Notre Dame College in Dhaka. Young women “hope to live in a safe world, in which we feel free, able to express ourselves.” For Muslim students, family values are the basis of society, terrorists are isolated, far from the family, brainwashed. From our correspondent
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – A group of young people – Muslims, Christians and Buddhists – spoke to AsiaNews at Notre Dame College in Dhaka during the last event of Pope Francis’s pastoral visit to Bangladesh, which was dedicated to young people, and attracted about nine thousand young people from Catholic schools in the capital.
"We are the future of the world and we want to live in freedom and harmony; no matter what religion we practice, we are all human beings,” they said.
All of them were grateful to the Pope for the visit, and felt honoured to have had the opportunity of participating in a such event, which was open to a limited number of people.
They talked about their hopes for future life and about current problems, like terrorism and education. "We will put into practice the pontiff’s message of harmony and we pass it to our peers," they said.
In his address, Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai (India), said, “You young people will change the world, go out and change the world. Change Asia!"
Indeed, these young people “are a practical example of coexistence between people of different faiths,” said Ruby Imelda Gomes, assistant professor at the college and a member of the Board of Trustees of Notre Dame University Bangladesh. “We teach them that the main characteristic of life is not religious affiliation but love."
In his address, Francis praised the country's youth and describe it as "fearless", adding that despite different backgrounds and different beliefs, “they were all working for the common good, working in harmony. Understood? We can see such beautiful harmony here in Bangladesh.”
Two female students at Holy Cross College, Sadia Nishat, a Muslim, and Diana Gomes, a Catholic, also spoke about harmony. "We are already living in harmony; we are friends,” they said. “The only important thing is that we are human beings."
“As women and girls,” said Diana, "we hope to live in a safe world, in which we feel free, able to express ourselves. We no longer want to be victims of slavery or exploitation. We must support each other, together."
"Women are human beings, we are not objects, and we do not want to be used as such. We have emotions and we want to express them. We are not different from men. I pray that Pope Francis will give me the strength to go and study abroad, in Russia, to receive a higher education."
"Supporting harmony in this country is a duty,” said another group of about thirty Catholic students, who studied at the Novara Technical School in Dinajpur. “We are a minority in a country with an Islamic majority."
Speaking of the future, they note that "the first concern is finding a job after school. The educational system does not provide practical skills. Apart from technical schools, we often study for years and we end up doing a job for which we have never been trained." After this, "Our second hope is to find a beautiful girl, marry her and live happily," they admit.
A group of Muslim college students agree that the educational system has many shortcomings. Working up his courage to express his opinion, Musfigur Rakib Sohan and Mohammad Shahriar Hossain mentioned terrorism and peace.
"Although we are Muslims, we are not cruel. We do not express a crude culture, with no respect for other faiths,” said Musfigur. In fact, “We are honoured to have met the Pope.”
“What matters are the values passed on by the family. Mine has always taught me to respect others. I go to the celebrations of my Hindu and Christian friends and invite them to Islamic ones.”
Speaking about today’s difficulties, the young people say they have no "working and business skills. We must be more motivated to improve. The educational system limits us; it does not support us in our professional growth. For example, there should be more extracurricular activities outside regular school hours."
With respect to their hopes for the future, "if we were to hold positions of power tomorrow, we would be able to solve these shortcomings because we know the problems".
"We are the potential of the future of the whole world, we support harmony, non-corruption, the fight against terrorism," Mohammad added.
The country’s growing terrorist problem is very much discussed in their country, especially among young people.
"Terrorists believe they are better than others and want to subjugate us. Young people involved in militant activities are far from their families, and have lost their values. They are victims; they are isolated."
"When someone has a problem, it is solved only through dialogue and exchange with others. Instead, the terrorist is alone and lives like in a solitary prison. In this case it is easier for him to be drawn to bad people, who engage in brainwashing."