Bishop Rozario worried about Christians’ debts in Bangladesh
by Sumon Corraya

The prelate warns the faithful and credit unions that the latter’s original goals are distorted if the former are not properly informed. Some 50 credit unions operate in the dioceses of Rajshahi and Dinajpur. Domestic migrants are made to feel welcome.


Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, who is vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, expressed deep concern over the debts contracted by Christians in his diocese.

"In North Bengal (Uttarbanga), the parishes of Bonpara, Boni, Mathurapur, Faljana and Bhabanipur are supposed to be the richest," the prelate said during yesterday’s celebrations marking the silver jubilee of the local Christian Cooperative Credit Union held at Notre Dame College in Dhaka.

“Sadly, all the families of these villages have taken loans and some have a debt of 60-70 million taka” (around US$ 680,000-785,000). “They will not be able to pay them back even if they sold themselves, their wife or children.”

The Church “did not set up credit unions for this,” Bishop Rozario explained. Looking at some beautiful homes in the parishes, he wonders how people could afford to build them. "How are you going to pay off the debts?" he asked people.

In North Bengal, the Christian Cooperative Credit Union was founded in 1996, but the country’s first cooperative credit union was created by American missionary Fr Charles J. Young.

Today, some 50 Christian-run cooperatives operate in the dioceses of Rajshahi and Dinajpur (which cover some 16 districts). Across the country there are around 900.

Unfortunately, some people find themselves unable to repay they debts and so are often forced to sell their assets to Muslims.

Bishop Rozario explained that credit unions have a responsibility to inform people about how to invest their money productively so that they can have a return and repay the loans.

“Credit unions require honesty and proper leadership,” the prelate said. “Coop members often fail to understand [what they are getting into to). It's sad. Thus, some have distorted cooperative societies. But there are also good leaders. Not everyone is bad.”

"For those of you who are here in North Bengal, the diocese has much to offer,” he told migrants who live in Dhaka but come from the dioceses of Rajshahi and Dinajpur. “Do not look to the diocese, but to your brothers and sisters, to the parents who need support.”