03/13/2024, 19.30
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During Caritas Bangladesh's Lenten campaign, even the poor help the poor

by Sumon Corraya

More than 100 people in need have already been helped through an initiative in which Catholics work with many Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. For Caritas Bangladesh executive director Sebastian Rozario, this “is a somewhat unique project, precisely because it is supported entirely by local donors,” with a “hand outstretched not out of their abundance but out of their daily necessities”.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Caritas Bangladesh (CB) has launched this year’s Teg O Sbeha Abhijan (Sacrifice and Service) campaign for Lent, whose inception dates to 1980. This year’s theme is “Response to the Call of Almighty, Stand by the distressed People”, which will continue through Easter until 31 May.

More than a hundred people have been helped this way. Manik, Limya, and Elizabeth are three of them.

“The fire burnt down my only house,” said Elizabeth Rozario, a 73-year-old Catholic woman from Nagori parish, Gazipur. “For two months I stayed on the balcony of other people's homes. Caritas Bangladesh repaired my house, and now I can stay in my own home.".

Limya Akter is a 17-year-old Muslim woman, who got money to enrol in university. "My parents didn't have a job, so I asked Caritas for money and they helped me with my admission to college," she told AsiaNews.

Manik Miha, 53, also a Muslim, said he was thankful for the financial support he received to treat his kidney disease. “None of my relatives could help me, but Caritas Bangladesh did not leave me empty-handed. Thanks to the money for my treatment, I'm better now," Miha said.

As part of Caritas’s mobilisation, all the Catholic dioceses in Bangladesh celebrated Caritas Sunday last Sunday.

Religious leaders from other Christian denominations, as well as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism have also become involved in promoting this campaign. Last year, 6,448,940 taka (almost US$ 60,000) were raised to provide education, care, and other forms of aid to more than a hundred people.

“Caritas Bangladesh not only serves people in need by collecting donations for humanitarian work from abroad, but also raises money from its staff members, project participants, and students,” said CB executive director Sebastian Rozario. “Teg O Sbeha Abhijan is a somewhat unique project, precisely because it is supported entirely by local donors," he explained.

Christians offer their own money as part of the Lenten sacrifice, but they also encourage people of other faiths to do the same to serve those in need. To promote this, CB provides donation boxes, stickers, envelopes, posters, flyers, with the aim of reaching everyone.

But as project coordinator Chayon Hubert Reberio said to AsiaNews, staff members also willingly donate a day's salary and the beneficiaries of the projects themselves are in turn motivated to donate.

“We reach out to everyone, regardless of caste and creed, reminding them of their obligations to the poor and disadvantaged members of society,” Reberio noted. “We aim to encourage individuals to extend a helping hand to the needy and underprivileged, not out of their abundance but out of their daily necessities, thus expressing solidarity towards them.”

Believers of other religions admire the initiative. "If one seeks something from Allah by giving, then one receives it,” said Maulana Majharul Islam, prayer leader (khatib) at the Ambar Shah Mosque in Dhaka's Kawran Bazaar district.

“I think we should all participate in charitable initiatives like those of Caritas Bangladesh,” added Islam who was a special guest at the Caritas Sunday service.

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