DHAKA, BANGLADESH – The relationship between Catholics and Protestants in Bangladesh has traditionally been prickly.
The Catholic Church has been perceived as taking a superior attitude to Protestants, while some Protestant branches even threatened their members with punishment if they associated with Catholics.
But over the last decade, leaders and members of both comminities have been putting aside their old differences and forming a united approach on various issues.
The shift began when Christians started making a concerted, grassroots effort to hold inter-Church programmes and seminars that promoted dialogue.
It came of age last August when the United Forum of Churches in Bangladesh (UFCB) was formed.
UFCB comprises three nationwide organisations – the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the National Church Council and the National Christian Fellowship.
The Catholic Bishops’ Dhaka headquarters was the venue for the first gathering of the forum recently.
Entitled “Church and Witness”, the half day programme was attended by 62 participants including an archbishop, two bishops, four priests and a group of Protestant pastors.
“In the past we have worked from different standpoints without any banner,” said Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, the UFCB president.
“But from now on we will have one common approach. It will not only improve our relationship but also enable us to speak up for our rights to the government with one voice.”
UFCB secretary Rev Leor P Sarkar, of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship, said the Churches were already working together on a number of key concerns.
“We are protesting together over attacks on religious minorities,” he said.
“We are also working together to claim Easter Sunday as a public holiday and to have the Christian Matrimony Act amended. We will be meeting the Prime Minister twice a year to voice the interests of Christians in Bangladesh.”
Christians in Muslim-majority Bangladesh account for 0.03 percent in a population of 160 million. Catholicism is the largest Christian group with about 350,000 members. - UCANEWS.COM