Religious leaders in Bangladesh have high hopes for the Pope’s visit


DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladeshi religious leaders of different denominations hope that the upcoming visit of Pope Francis will promote harmony and tolerance in the Muslim majority nation.

However, a hardline Muslim group warned that it would protest if the pontiff said or did something "unexpected and unacceptable", reported.

November 30-December. Visit 2 will be the third by a Pope to the populous and impoverished country. Blessed Paul VI made a stopover in 1970 that lasted a few hours in what was then East Pakistan to express his sympathy for the victims of a devastating cyclone. Saint John Paul II reached the independence of Bangladesh on November 19, 1986.

During his trip to Dhaka, the capital, Francis will meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Abdul Hamid, as well as with members of the body diplomat and civil society. He planned to pay his respects at two national monuments and celebrate Mbad for more than 100,000 people in Dhaka, where he will ordain 16 deacons to the priesthood.

Interreligious and ecumenical meetings and a visit to a home for indigent people led by the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation that St. Teresa of Calcutta founded, is also on the pontiff's itinerary.

Francisco's visit will celebrate a 46-year relationship between the Vatican and Bangladesh, said Cardinal Patrick D & # 39; Rozario, archbishop of Dhaka.

The Holy See was one of the first states to recognize Bangladesh after independence from Pakistan in 1971 and establish full diplomatic relations in 1973.

The relationship was based on universal values ​​such as compbadion and human dignity that transcend the ethnicity and politics, D Rozario said. Previous international expressions of sympathy when Bangladesh suffered natural disasters and the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013 that claimed more than 1,100 lives cemented the relationship, he said.

"I have seen the feeling of joy in people, who are anxious to have an encounter with the leader who is a symbol of the unity of the church," said the cardinal.

On another front, a senior leader of the hard-line group Hefazat-e-Islam welcomed the Pope's visit, but said he would closely monitor it.

"Pope Francis is the supreme leader of Christians and head of the Vatican State, so we welcome him in our country," said Mufti Faizullah, group secretary, ] "We will carefully observe what you say and do during the trip, if we find something unexpected and unacceptable, we will protest and issue statements if necessary."

The group has pressed for the rigorous implementation of a law against blasphemy, the execution of atheists, the Islamization of school textbooks and the elimination of idols and statues from public places and has attacked what it sees as Christian evangelization in some areas.

Maolana Fariduuddin Masoud, president of the Muslim liberal group Bangladesh Jamiyat-ul-Ulema, said he hopes that love and hospitality will stand out during the Pope's visit. 19659002] "Pope Francis is a holy figure and a world leader, so people have the honor of having him in Bangladesh and will offer him overwhelming love," said Masoud

Bangladesh pluralist and The tolerant image has been tainted by a lethal rise in Islamic radicalism in recent years. Since 2013, Islamic militants have killed some 50 people, including atheist bloggers, writers and editors, gay rights activists, liberal Muslims, religious minorities and foreigners. A government offensive resulted in approximately 70 militant deaths and dozens of arrests.

Despite the government's actions, little has been done to combat the radical ideology that fuels violence despite attempts to promote interreligious dialogue.

Rana Dasgupta, Hindu lawyer and leader in Dhaka, said the pope could look at flaws in the battle of Bangladesh against extremism.

"Extremists wanted to attack the heart of the nation, our pluralism and harmony, so they killed people who had liberal or critical views on religion or adhered to other faiths," Dasgupta said.

"This extremist ideology is not part of our culture, but little has been done on this front to present a counter-ideology: Pope Francis has refused Islam, refused to badociate it with terrorism and called for dialogue between religions to combat violence and extremism, "he said.

Dasgupta said the Bangladesh government's efforts to promote dialogue and harmony were insufficient.

"Perhaps the Pope can offer some guidance on how the best dialogue for harmony and peace can be used," he said.

Ashoke Barua, a Buddhist leader, said the papal visit would be a blessing for religious harmony.

Pope Francis' trip will revitalize religious harmony and bring people of all religions closer together, "he said." It is also a great opportunity to present Bangladesh's kindness to the world. "

Despite recent setbacks , D & # 39; Rozario said he hopes that Pope Francis will realize that the nation remains committed to harmony and peace.

"Our nation is like a river," said the cardinal. strong currents fed by strong winds, but in the river bed there is calm. And this comes from the basic religiosity and pluralism of people. "

Bangladesh is struggling to cope with the influx of refugees caused by violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the pope is expected to address the public issue or privately during his visit.

D & # 39; Rozario noted that Bangladesh had complied with its "traditional values" by accepting to flee Rohingya. "The Pope comes for harmony and peace, not only for Rohingya, but for all," he said. "It does not solve any problem, but it will surely have a message for them and for everyone."

The cardinal noted that the Rohingya crisis had similar elements to violence against marginalized communities around the world, including "large world powers "are involved."

"The Pope will not only talk about Rohingya," he added, "but other people persecuted and perhaps will criticize those who shed tears of ocodrilo & # 39; for Rohingya but not for others, as Christians in the Middle East. "

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