Falling in love with Christ in Bangladesh: the story of Anjoli
The 22 year old comes from the Diocese of Dinajpur, from a Hindu family. Sr. Annamaria Panza, of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception, says she was "fascinated by Jesus: the way in which he is with people, how he loves, how he serves".
Dinajpur (AsiaNews) - Falling in love with Christ in Bangladesh is possible: This is the story of Anjoli, a 22-year-old girl from the Diocese of Dinajpur, who has converted from Hinduism. Sr. Annamaria Panza, provincial councilor of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (PIME women's congregation), shared her story with AsiaNews.
Anjoli's journey was not "easy. She became a Christian after several years of waiting. But it could not be otherwise because she fell in love with Jesus. Considering her Hindu religion, she understood that it did not attract her as much as Jesus: the way he is with people, how he loves , how he serves".
Sr. Annamaria says that the girl attended the schools in the village of origin until the eighth grade. Then in high school she moved to the Missionary hostel in Dinajpur. "Living in the hostel - she continues - she expressed the desire to become a Christian". But it was not so much the example of the nuns that pushed the girl to embrace Christianity, she underlined, "as much as the life of Christ".
All the young people who study in the hostels run by the congregation "learn to pray, come to Mass. Parents know this and agree. Learning to pray, Anjoli immediately expressed the will to convert, but we told her to wait to consciously mature in her choice. Then at 17 she moved from the nuns to Dhaka and here again she asked to be baptized, but we told her to wait again ".
Despite the caution of the nuns, Anjoli continued to attend the church and in the meantime moved to an apartment with her sister, a Hindu, who had joined her from the village. She continued her studies and led a normal life. Now she works and lives alone. Amid her daily commitments, she never forgets herlove for Christ. "Every Friday and Sunday she goes to Mass in a parish near her house, and that's where she undertook the catechumenate and finally received baptism".
According to Sr. Annamaria, Anjoli's choice was courageous, "because she did not allow herself to be influenced by the traditions of her community and tribal group". Here the nun is specifically referring to the custom of marriage: "In Bangladesh we get married within the community and the ethnic group. Only rarely do marriages occur among believers of other religions, because this creates problems in the family and also for the subsequent marriage of the children. The children of converts - for example, Hindus - are not considered as 'pure Hindus'. " This kind of speech is also valid "for religious holidays: at Christmas, Anjoli will not return home, because the family of origin does not celebrate the birth of Jesus".
The elements highlighted by the nun might seem trivial, but take on a much greater significance when considering the Bangladeshi context: despite the influence of Western models of independence and individual autonomy, the sense of belonging remains strong - to the family, to the religious group, to the tribal community. "The sense of real freedom is still missing. Families integrate with difficulty, the groups remain divided along ethnic, ritual or traditional lines but even by whatthey eat". However, faced with the girl's firm belief, she concludes, "her family could not help but accept. They did not object, on the contrary, the parents said they were happy because the Christians are good people ".