Joy of religious rituals for others has become tradition for generations, Christian leader says.
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – The minority Christian community hailed religious and communal harmony in Bangladesh on Christmas.
More than half a million Christians in the South Asian Muslim majority country of nearly 170 million are participating in scaled-downed celebrations this year because of the prevailing coronavirus pandemic that has been exacerbated by the omicron variant.
Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus and is observed by billions of Christians on Dec. 25 as a religious and cultural celebration.
“Since my childhood, I have been enjoying Christmas Day every year in a harmonious and peaceful environment in my country. It’s really fantastic,” Christabel Randolph, a Bangladeshi Christian and lawyer at the Supreme Court, told Anadolu Agency.
She underlined the peaceful coexistence among ethnic communities and added to celebrate, Christians individually, as well as on behalf of churches, help each other so the pleasure of day can be distributed to all.
“This is a great lesson of this day to help others, especially the economically backward or underprivileged people,” said Randolph, who added that a very strong social perception of religious freedom has grown in Bangladesh which is also the beauty of multiculturalism.
– Celebration on narrow scale
The Home Ministry said directed everyone not to gather in any social, political and religious events to stem the spread of omicron.
It also asked members of the Christian community to celebrate Christmas with immediate family members while it directed law enforcement to strictly monitor Christmas and the New Year’s celebrations.
Father Kamal Corraya from a Christian church in the capital of Dhaka said all churches have been prepared for adherents to come for a short time to pray on a limited scale on Christmas in the maintenance of health guidelines by the government.
“Due to the new variant of the pandemic, we are also scared and as per government directions we will mostly celebrate Christmas this year at family levels,” he said.
Emphasizing divine help to address the pandemic, Corraya added: “We will conduct special prayers to the Almighty God on the occasion of holy Christmas so that Bangladesh, as well as the whole world, is free of the virus.
He said exchanging festival greetings through different means is continuing despite restrictions.
“It is a very common culture in Bangladesh that Christians, Hindus and Muslims live together side by side and share good food on each other’s religious festivals and exchange gifts,” said Corraya.
He urged all to practice more tolerance and said Jesus came to this world to establish “love” and to serve people so that all can lead a peaceful life free of sufferings, diseases and other plights.
– Religion in narrow politics
Referring to the habit of some politicians of misusing religion in narrow politics, social activist and senior citizen in the Christian community, Gaulbert Randolph told Anadolu Agency that there are some who have political motivation and always try to politicize everything.
“Such politically vitiated people are everywhere in Muslims, in Hindus and in Christians,” said Gaulbert.
He cited the founding spirit of Bangladesh as a secular state and added that secularism does not mean withdrawal of religion — it means freedom of religion, respect and tolerance to others’ beliefs and to live in harmony.
He said the charismatic leadership, mental growth of people and all sorts of tolerance to each other are vital for Bangladesh to reach its goal as a developed nation by 2041.
Citing the commitment of Christmas, he said people of all ethnic communities must work together for the greater interest of the country.
“My first identity is that I am a Bangladeshi who was born in this country 70 years ago and then I am a Christian,” said Gaulbert, adding that any attempt at exploitation and falsehood in the guise of religion to destabilize the sectarian harmony would not be sustained in Bangladesh as most people here believe in respect, love, peace and harmony.