A few days ago, another 47 ethnic Santal received the sacrament of Christian initiation in the parish of Bhutahara Quasi. “We have been visiting these villages for over seven years,” said Fr Swapon Purification. “More than 70 people will receive the baptism this Wednesday.” “In the past I worshipped nature and trees,” one of the newly baptised said. “Now I turn to Jesus in my prayers.”
Naogaon (AsiaNews) – A group of 47 adults were baptised last Wednesday in Korbala, a village in Bhutahara Quasi parish, Diocese of Rajshahi, northern Bangladesh. PIME missionaries founded the parish in 2005, which now has more than 2,500 members.
For years the missionaries worked among ethnic Santal and Oraon, tribal peoples indigenous to the area, who traditionally practise a form of pantheism closely linked to nature worship and the veneration of ancestral spirits.
“We have been visiting these villages for over seven years,” explained Fr Swapon Purification, speaking to AsiasNews.
“We brought the Bible and the Word of God, celebrated Masses and proposed catechetical courses. The result has been surprising: 47 adults from 15 families received the baptism in Korbala. In another village in our parish, more than 70 people will receive the baptism this Wednesday.”
Fr Swapon praised the catechists who, through their work, managed to enter the hearts of the new believers.
“It seems to me that catechists have played a significant role and their commitment has been exemplary; they have continuously visited these remote areas that can only be reached after long hours of walking.
“On each trip they stopped in the village for three to seven days to bring the word of God. The rest of the work was done by us priests together with the sisters.”
Bernabas Hasda played a leading role in the new baptisms. An ethnic Santal, the 66-year-old catechist has been engaged in this precious task for 40 years.
For him, "There are huge opportunities to enter into people's hearts and bring Bangladesh’s tribal community closer to Christianity. PIME missionaries have been at the forefront in this region of the country for years. We are following the path traced by them.”
One of the newly baptised is Durga Joachim Basra, a 40-year-old farmer who shared his joy after receiving the sacrament.
“In the past I worshipped nature and trees and practised, together with the tribe, rituals related to nature’s fruitfulness. I didn't have a specific God. Now I turn to Jesus in my prayers. I believe that thanks to him I will obtain salvation. I am very happy to have received baptism.”
Another new believer, Buddhinath Hembrom, also expressed his joy. “I thank the priests, nuns and catechists for bringing me closer to Jesus and for giving me the joy of baptism,” he said.
Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country. Christians constitute less than 1 per cent of the population.
Thanks to the work of priests, nuns and catechists, especially in remote villages and regions, the number of Bangladeshi Catholics is rising despite ongoing tensions with majority Muslims, which often lead to violence against Christians.