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Bangladeshi leaders laud Christian contribution toward the war of independence, post-war efforts for nation-building

Bangladeshi leaders praised Christian efforts culminating in the country's independence and post-war efforts to rebuild the nation on December 11.
The Catholic Church celebrated the golden jubilee of the country and the centenary birthday of the Father of the Nation at the KIB auditorium in the capital Dhaka on December 11. (Photo: Supplied)

Bangladeshi leaders praised Christian efforts culminating in the country's independence and post-war efforts to rebuild the nation on December 11.

"Many local and foreign missionaries risked their lives to save the freedom fighters and asylum seekers. We remember with respect and gratitude the contribution of the Christian community in the war of independence," said Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, the speaker of the Bangladesh national parliament.

Dr. Chowdhury was speaking as a chief guest during a special event to mark the 50 years of Bangladesh's independence and the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation at the KIB auditorium in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Dr. Shirin Chaudhury said, "Like the Christian freedom fighters in the war of liberation, the educational institutions, churches, and houses of the Christians have made a special contribution to the war of liberation."

Catholic Bishop's Conferences of Bangladesh organized the celebration, offering special prayers for the martyrs and well-being of Bangladesh.

"The Christian community has made a significant contribution to the country's reconstruction in the post-war period and the education and health care of the country in the post-war period," She added.

Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal,  the Home Minister of Bangladesh, referring to the contribution of Christians in the cooperative movement, acknowledged that "the Christian community in Bangladesh has been setting an example in cooperatives. We see Christian cooperative credit unions operating very successfully. Among them is Dhaka Credit, Housing Society."

Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario of Bangladesh said, "Christians are a minority in Bangladesh, but the Christian community was involved in the liberation war to free our country."

"Driven by the Holy Spirit of patriotism, the Christian community has made great strides in building the fabled Golden Bengal over the past 50 years. Christians are expanding and escalating their efforts (toward nations building)," said Cardinal D'Rozario.

Archbishop Bejoy N. D'Cruze of Dhaka presided over the program attended by over 1,200 people, including freedom fighters, government officials, and bishops all over the country.

Affairs Faridul Haq Khan, State Minister for Religious Affairs, was the guest of honor.

Medals were given to the Christian freedom fighters during the event, and crests were awarded to the Organizations and persons (who died) who rendered extraordinary services during the liberation war. Church officials conferred a special medal and a certificate of honor on 40 former guerrilla fighters, representing 419 former Christian guerrillas officially recognized by the state.

Francis C. Rebeiro, a Catholic freedom fighter, said, "I always feel joy and peace in my mind because, during war liberation, I was involved. I feel proud that hailed the efforts to recognize Christian freedom fighters on the golden jubilee of independence. There could be no better occasion than honoring Christian freedom fighters on this auspicious occasion of the country's 50th anniversary of independence."

In addition, 35 individuals representing clergy, religious, and laypeople received memorial crests for their significant roles during the war, including supporting, sheltering, and providing food and medical treatment to freedom fighters and refugees.

On March 16, 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed a declaration making East Pakistan the sovereign and independent country of Bangladesh.

It sparked the nine-month-long Bangladesh Liberation War, which claimed the lives of up to three million people and with hundreds of thousands of women raped. Although the casualty figures are disputed, millions were displaced.

The struggle for Bengali rights started shortly after Pakistan gained independence as a country with two contiguous territories known as West Pakistan (today's Pakistan) and East Pakistan (today's Bangladesh). 

The refusal to accept Bengali as a state language of Pakistan in the early years after Partition, the economic disparity between the two parts, the hegemony of the West Pakistani ruling elite over Pakistan, martial laws, and a demeaning attitude toward Bengali culture and the Bengali population soured relations between the two parts.

After a nine-month war on December 16, 1971, Bangladesh became independent. It is a memorable history for the nation.

In the past 50 years, Bangladesh has come a long way in terms of development in economics, culture, and education, among others.


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