Dhaka (AsiaNews) - The Christian Religious Welfare Trust donated 2.1 million taka (US$ 27,500) for pastoral work and renovation to 26 Christian churches in Bangladesh.
Made during a ceremony held last Monday in Dhaka, the contribution is of particular importance, because it is the work of a government body in a predominantly Muslim nation where Christians represent 0.4 per cent of the population - 0.1 per cent in the case of Catholics.
Established in 2009, the fund is designed to contribute to national development through the development of its human resources and by encouraging solidarity between people of different faiths.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Religious Affairs Minister Motiur Rahman, who also chairs the Christian Religious Welfare Trust, said, "We want the faithful of all religions to follow their beliefs freely. Through this fund, we promote religious harmony and brotherhood".
During the ceremony, the minister also noted that Bangladesh is a secular country and that its constitution protects religious rights.
"We believe," he explained, "that if people of all religion can practice their religious rituals properly, our country will advance with prosperity and peace".
Fr Hubert B. Rebeiro, 44, is the parish priest at Jhoragopalpur, in the Diocese of Rajshahi. His church is one of those that received funding.
"I am very pleased that government gave me financial support for church's activities. since we are in a predominantly Muslim country, it is a big deal for us," he told AsiaNews.
The Christian Religious Welfare Trust received on an initial grant of 50 million taka (about US$ 650,000).
Since 2009, it has helped 91 churches, for a total outlay of 9.5 million taka (US$ 125,000).