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Caritas Bangladesh marks 50 years of service in development

Caritas Bangladesh, a Catholic Church-based social development wing marks its 50th anniversary with love and service at the Notre Dame College premises, Dhaka on November 12, 2022. (Photo: Shiba Rozario)

Caritas Bangladesh, the social action arm of the Catholic Church in the country, marked its 50th anniversary on November 12. 

The theme of the golden jubilee was "Caritas Bangladesh: 50 Years of Love and Service."

A national-level closing program for Caritas Bangladesh's Golden Jubilee was organized at the Notre Dame College premises in Dhaka. 

"Caritas is working for the poor and helpless people in urban and rural areas," said the President of Caritas Bangladesh, Bishop James Romen Boiragi of Khulna. "There are still many places in Bangladesh where people are deprived of this service. Through the jubilee celebration, I hope that Caritas will reach out and serve them where its service has not yet reached."

Dr. Md. Abdur Razzak, Minister of Agriculture graced the event as chief guest.

"Caritas means love. This love is for humanity, which is for all people irrespective of caste, religion, or creed," he said. "The role of Caritas in the formation of the country after the 1971 war is commendable."

"Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in poverty alleviation," he added. "Caritas has not only worked socio-economically but has also worked in infrastructure development."

"Caritas is a successful NGO. I congratulate it and thank all the donors to Caritas Bangladesh," said Razzak, a member of parliament. 

In his speech, Oblate Archbishop Bejoy N. D’Cruze of Dhaka said, "Caritas Bangladesh is working to achieve its vision. We are hopeful that Caritas will continue its work in the future to uphold the freedom of all people, establish justice, and promote peace."

The day-long program started with a colorful rally at 9:00 a.m. The opening ceremony included hoisting the national and Caritas flags, releasing balloons and pigeons, opening stalls, unveiling the wrapping of jubilee souvenirs, honoring guests with crests, presenting the Caritas (Padok) Award, and showing a video documentary on Caritas activities and speeches.

"We remember all the pioneers of Caritas Bangladesh and its journey of love and service 50 years ago," said Sebastian Rozario, executive director of Caritas Bangladesh. "Under their effective leadership, the service of Caritas has spread to every region and found a place in the hearts of the people, who supported the year-long jubilee celebrations." 

Parliamentary Members Jewel Areng, Aroma Dutta, Advocate Gloria Jharna Sarker, and Caritas Asia President Dr. Benedict Alo D'Rozario spoke on the occasion, among others. 

Caritas Bangladesh's national-level closing program was a huge success, with over 2,000 people in attendance.

"The Bangladesh Catholic Bishops' Conference (CBCB) and Caritas Bangladesh are also celebrating their golden jubilees along with the national golden jubilee of the country. I hope that the contribution of Caritas to the establishment of human dignity will continue for the next fifty years," said Holy Cross Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario, former archbishop of Dhaka.

In her address, Ms. Rasheda K. Choudhury, executive director, of the Campaign for Popular Education, a national coalition of non-governmental organizations working in the field of literacy and education, said, "Caritas developed leadership at the grassroots level in rural areas across Bangladesh." 

"Caritas is a guiding organization, a lighthouse in Bangladesh's development sector. It is working in coordination with the government," she added.

All the Catholic Bishops from Bangladesh, members of Caritas administration, representatives of donor organizations and various government institutions, including Ministries, local and international non-government organization representatives, academe, leaders of civil society organizations, dignitaries of the country, and media persons attended the program.

Sukleash George Costa, James Gomes, director of Mirpur Agricultural Workshop and Training School, a trust of Caritas Bangladesh, and former Caritas executive director Francis Atul Sarkar were also present. 

In the second part of the program, a report on three research projects carried out by Caritas on specific topics was presented.

The third part included cultural performances by Caritas workers, highlighting the contribution of Caritas to the development of the country.

Caritas started its journey in 1967 as the then Eastern branch office of Pakistan. Later, after the disastrous cyclone hit on November 12, 1970, Chittagong dioceses extended their helping hands to the affected people of the coastal areas by establishing the Chittagong Organization for Relief and Development (CORD). Over time, it started working under the name Christian Organization for Relief and Rehabilitation (CORR).

It became a national institution on January 13, 1971, and on July 13, 1972, it was registered under the government of the newly independent People's Republic of Bangladesh.

At present, the head office of Caritas is located at Shantibagh in Dhaka. Besides, there are eight regional offices: Barishal, Chattogram, Dhaka, Dinajpur, Khulna, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, and Sylhet.

Through these offices, Caritas is working in 187 subdivisions in 53 districts of the country. 

Currently, Caritas runs 112 projects in three trusts, and the number of beneficiaries is around 1.7 million. 

Caritas Bangladesh is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 Caritas Member Organizations in over 200 countries and territories. - Nikhil Gomes


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