Laudato Sì Week celebrated in one of Dhaka’s most polluted areas
by Sumon Corraya

The Catholic Church in Bangladesh calls on the faithful to be inspired by Pope Francis's encyclical to protect creation. In the past year, Caritas and the dioceses have planted 700,000 trees. For Bishop Rozario, “if we fail to protect nature and the Earth, we will face a disaster.”


Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Church is currently celebrating Laudato Sì Week (16-25 May) around the world to mark the anniversary of the publication of the encyclical on the care of creation. For Catholics in Bangladesh, a country threatened by heavy pollution as well as climate change, this has particular significance.

The Vatican Dicastery for Promotion of Human Development suggested the theme of the celebration, based on words taken from the encyclical itself: “for we know that things can change” (Laudato Sì, 13). The goal is to take stock of what the Church is doing on the path of its own ecological conversion.

“In the past, I used plastic bags, now I have a jute bag,” said Jewel Gomes, a Catholic from Dharenda, a parish in the Dhaka area, speaking to AsiaNews. Fifteen years ago, it was a village, but now it has turned into a city with the arrival of garment factories. This has come with a price: greater pollution.

“All the water in the canal is unclean and dirty because of factory discharges,” said Jewel. “You can neither drink it nor use it for anything else.” Pollution also has other harmful effects. “Coconuts, jackfruits, and other fruits drop before they are ripe. If we wash cows in the canal they suffer from skin diseases.”

The parish and its congregation are marking Laudato Sì Week with this and other issues hanging over their heads, including air and noise pollution.

“We realise how important it is to take care of creation,” explained Jewel’, “because we are already among the victims of climate change. For this reason, I use the jute bag instead of plastic bags”.

Last year Catholics in Dharenda protested against the owners of a polluting factory. Bimol Rozario, another local Catholic, told AsiaNews that he planted a Jackfruit tree during this Laudato Sì Week.

“The environment loves us like a mother, but we persecute it with our bad behaviour,” he said. “The time has come to love the Earth by taking care of the environment.”

In the past year, the local Caritas and the Catholic Church have planted 700,000 trees to mark the fifth anniversary of the Laudato Sì encyclical and the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s birth.

To celebrate the Laudato Sì Week, Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, who also chairs the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, sent a pastoral letter to all the dioceses of the country.

“At this time we must do everything to take care of nature and the environment, planting trees, cleaning up, and reducing the use of fossil fuels,” he notes.

“Almighty God created this earth, including all its animals, with immense love. He gave human beings authority to take care of all. If we take care of Mother Earth by using our creativity, it will cover us with love.”

However, “if we fail to protect nature and the Earth, we will face a disaster. So let us be inspired by the spirit suggested by the Pope in Laudato Sì. Let it inspire others too. Thus, we can live in a wonderful, developed, and durable Earth.”