In Dhaka, Salesian nun saves thousands of women from persecution and physical/mental torture
by William Gomes
Sister Zita belongs to the Order of Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate. She has helped thousands of Catholics from the Garo tribe who have moved to Dhaka in search of jobs, often ending in the clutches of unscrupulous Muslim employers who persecute and torture them. Together with Caritas Bangladesh and the Church, she has founded the Garo Community Centre, where tribal Garo can learn new trades and find help searching jobs.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Catholics from the Garo tribe have moved to Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, in search of jobs and a better life. Thousands are women who, instead of finding as better life, end up in the hands of unscrupulous Muslim employers who torture and persecute them. For years, Sister Zita (pictured), a member of the Salesian Sister of Mary Immaculate (SSMI), has been helping these women, saving many from the dangers they face.

“In the past ten years, I have seen 7,000 Garo women come to Dhaka in search of a job forced to face a variety of problems,” Sister Zita said. “They work primarily as house maids and in beauty parlours. Many become victims of mental and physical torture at the hands of their employer. They feel constantly in danger”. For this reason, “we began to work for justice and peace.”

Sr Zita, who joined her order in 1990, is the first nun from her village. Between 1991 and 1994, she preached in various villages in the Diocese of Mymensingh to ensure that children were raised in the Catholic faith. After some years of training, she worked as a teacher in the Saint Leo Primary School from 1997 to 2005. Here, she took care of children from all religious backgrounds.

Over the past decade, she has helped more than 5,000 young Catholic women and girls. Since 2006, she has worked for the Episcopal Commission for Youth. This has brought her directly in contact with the tragic experiences of many women.

“One Catholic girl, whose name shall remain anonymous, was tricked by a Muslim man and raped,” she said. “This almost drove her to madness. However, we were able to help her and she is now leading a normal life.”

“In another case, a young woman was brutally tortured and kelp sequestered in her employer’s home. They did not even allow her to go to Mass on Sunday. We saved her, and got her back home to her parents, where she now studies and is doing well.”

In cooperation with Caritas Bangladesh and the local Catholic Church, Sr Zita set up the Garo Community Centre in Dhaka. It is a place where tribal people can turn to if they have any problems; a place of refuge, where they are helped to find a job. The Centre teaches new trades and skills based on needs. Mass is offered every day according to a special schedule for the more than 11,000 women who cannot attend Sunday Mass.

Sr Zita has also approached employers who let their Garo employees participate in Mass officiated just for them.

“The reason I do all this is to serve Christ through people who suffer,” She said, “by loving and helping them.”