09/03/2021, 16.53
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Salesians working with youth for the country’s future

by Sumon Corraya

The work of the seven priests of Don Bosco who arrived in Bangladesh in 2009 is bearing its first fruits. “We also teach children from other faiths,” said Salesian coordinator Fr Alencherry. So far, “we have never received any threats from Islamic extremists”. The first local Salesian will be ordained in the near future.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – In a country where the Catholic Church has fewer than 400,000 members (0.25 per cent of the population), a group of seven Salesians, mostly from India, is working hard at educating a new generation of young believers.

The Salesians of Don Bosco arrived in Utrail parish, Netrakona, Diocese of Mymensingh, in 2009. Gradually, they extended their ministry to the parishes of Lokhikul and Khanjanpur, Diocese of Rajshahi.

For a number of years, they also managed a parish centre in Uttara, Dhaka, which has become the Salesian coordination centre for the country.

Fr Francis Alencherry, 71, hails from Kerala (India) and is the Salesian coordinator in Bangladesh. A Christian education is the Salesians’ priority.

“We started our journey twelve years ago in one parish with one school,” he told AsiaNews. “Now we serve in four places. We work for youths.”

In 2009, before the Salesians arrived in Uttara and took over the local school, students did not attend classes regularly. Now more and more do. “This is a matter of joy and hope for us,” said the clergyman.

"Within two years, we will get a local priest from our religious congregation,” Fr Francis explained. “We are getting more religious vocations. We now have 39 seminarians.”

One crucial aspect of the Salesians’ work is having seminary students bear witness and share life with youth.

The Salesian ministry in Bangladesh is not exclusively centred Catholic pupils. “We also teach children from other faiths,” a great achievement.

Although getting along with Muslims has not always been easy and obvious, “Fortunately, we have never received any threats from Islamic extremists, but we know that jihadism is still widespread.”

Salesians also have to deal with red tape and bribery. "At government offices, it is hard to get things done without paying a bribe. For us, this is a great challenge that we face openly for the good of our children and school.”

In a young Church like that of Bangladesh, a lot of work remains to be done.

“We will soon welcome some local priests. Our first task will be to train them so that they can develop good experience and a strong faith.

“After that, we plan to extend our ministry to other dioceses in Bangladesh. We have already received invitations from four other dioceses.”

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