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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 103, April 2007



Pastoral Care of Nomads

in Bangladesh



Mr. Prodyut Prodip MONDOL



I would like to address you that we are dedicated to the pastoral work among gypsies in Bangladesh. The PNB (Pastoral Care of Nomads in Bangladesh) is a group of Catechist from different place of Bangladesh dedicated to the Pastoral work in this country. The Gypsies are known as Jajabor or Bede, Mahali, Kowra or other wandering group called by different names in different place. The founder of PNB Fr. Renato Rosso Says, When the first missionary started to welcome some Jajabor the Pastoral care of Nomads in Bangladesh.

The universality of this mission prompts the Church to reach even peoples who are geographically more remote, and also be concerned for those who although in countries of ancient Christians tradition, have not yet received the Gospel, or have received it partially who have received and who have not received. I came from the best group in Muslim in Bangladesh because the Church has duty to enter with other. Especially in recent decades as the Guidelines says “Divine Providence has been able to increase the attention paid to this people” also in Bangladesh the Divine Providence has able to increase the attention paid to the gypsy people and they need the same attention. Unfortunately, political problem among the politicians we did not see a small attention to the Gypsies from Government. Gypsies are very poor and illiterate. They have own language, tradition, custom, song, dance and culture. There are many gypsy groups in Bangladesh such as Bede or Jajabor, Mahali, Kowra etc. They practice different religion under their culture but today their culture is to be under threats. Gypsies have no alphabet but they practice or restore their language, tradition, custom, song, dance and culture by orally.

We are a group of catechist related with our Missionary activity under Fr. Renato Rosso through the Guidelines for the Pastoral care of Gypsies and we took this responsibility as our duty. We are happy that we are doing something for the Universal Church because Church has missionary thrust. We urged by the Holy Spirit as the Guidelines says, the Church intends to bring about a decisive change in this area, through a commitment to support and encourage it and by dedicating the necessary material, human and spiritual resources.

We speaking about Gypsies as the Guidelines says, we can forget that the underlying specific situation is not homogenous or general. Indeed, it encompasses various ethnic groups including “Bebe or Jajabor or Mantha, Mahali, Kowra”. Also if the text is born an European context from our part in Bangladesh is very different culture and custom. We try to find pastoral inspiration in these Guidelines, obviously adapting them to the circumstances, needs and requirements of each group. “Bede have very different culture in Bangladesh and everyone who is non gypsy they call them Jajabor or Mantha in this sense the word is used here to discriminate them that those who are lower caste people in Bangladesh. Gypsies are continues to be rejected by the majority of citizens. We will find many things different between European culture and Asian.

Bede: Bede is the big gypsy community is Bangladesh and they are Muslim. Bede belong to Tribe people or Amist people in 100 years age and they become Muslim, now all Bede are Muslim, among Bede they call manta to one Bede to another. There have three groups manta in Bede community (i) Mal manta (ii) Saugther Manta (iii) Bazigar Manta. Total Bede not more then Half million in Bangladesh and they are living in different places always they like to live with group not individual because afraid of major citizens. I am living the best group Bede ire Savar and they very good Bene group. They love us as love their own group of people. They have different language; tradition custom, song, dance, culture and they restore their culture by orally.

Mohali: Mohali is an unknown and under privileged ethnic community in Bangladesh. As we know about Mahali. Total Mahali is 3 million in the world among then 1.5 is Baptist and total people of Mahali are above 30.000 in Bangladesh among the 18.000 in Baptist and they are catholic. We got some religious among the Mahali Christians, 4 priests 22 sisters and 12 brothers they are studying in seminary. Most of the people of this Mahali community are illiterate. Especially the mothers are illiterate and they cannot take care their children about schooling due to working whole day in house to house and field for earning food. Mahali people are basket maker and field worker in the will of majority citizen in Bangladesh. They always move place to place for work and any duty. The Mahali have own language, tradition, custom, song, dance, culture but they have no Alphabet. They practice or restore their language, tradition, custom song, dance and culture by orally.

Kowra: Kowra is the most of the minority community in Bangladesh total kowra is not more them 10 thousand. They belong from high Hindu caste, they call KAIPOTRA, if any body calls them kaipotra they feel honor in their own mind because kaipotra is very related with kawsto that is the high community of Hindu. Lcowra is those who are take care of pig and they call them pigherd as like Shepherd of pig. Always they move with pigsare place to place. This is the job of kowra people for the little salary, that is 8 to 10 thousand per year. Especially their duty is to seal pig and take care of pig under the business holder for their duty they became untouchable to the majority citizens of Hindu. The high caste Hindu rejets them and made them untouchable Hindu lower easte community in Bangladesh. As we know all young (teenager) are married so we need to give priority to their family. Kowra people have their own language, tradition custom, song dance culture and they practice if by orally as like other Gypsies.

Gypsies are after considered and treated as second-class citizens in Europe. Also in Bangladesh Nomads group are suffering from the majority of citizen as in all the countries of Asia. Indeed in various countries they were subjected to acts of physical aggression which once again in a tragic various circle, fuelled misunderstanding and violence. Not only in Europe but also in Asia. Such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Srilanka etc.

Religiosity is also a key element of Gypsy identity. Relationship with God is taken for granted and takes the form of an emotive and immediate relationship with the Almighty, who looks after and protects family life, especially at times of sorrow and anxiety. This religiosity usually has its place in the majority religion or confession of the country where they live but over the confusion that our people profess we could say that there is one religion that we call Gypsy religion or Nomadic religion. I think that one Gypsy Muslim is more like a Gypsy Christian then a        Muslim and one Gypsy Christians personal attitude is more like one Gypsy Muslim then a Christian, because all Gypsies Culture as like same in Bangladesh. Now we are a group of Christian becomes new Gypsy and we are living in Gypsies as the guideline says. This remains true even thought the majority of Gypsies as already mentioned, are now settled or simi-settled. This new way of life does not undermine the Gypsies perception that they are different from the gage. The fear of being absorbed and of losing their identity strengthens their resistance to assimilation also in Bangladesh have daily Marginalization against Nomadic People but fortunate at list in Bangladesh, Marginalization dose not make them fairest. Because they have their own society and their have alternative politics. Every Gypsy group has a group leader and that leader is very prudent to run his group on the other hand all group leaders have very nice relation among them as like Gypsy Government. The Group leaders make plan what they will do and all gypsies flow that plan because their leadership is very strong and all gypsies are respect their leader.

In Bangladesh majority nomadic people are Muslim also in Gypsies Communities major part is Muslim as guidelines says indeed from the Catholic dimension of mission flows the ecclesial capacity to find and develop the necessary resources to facilitate the many social forms in which human communities are organizes. In this way salvation is available to everyone, Mindful of St Paul's warning, “Woe to me if I do not preach (the gospel)! (1 Cor 9:16) the Church therefore spares no effort and sacrifice to concretelyn reach all people. Also for the pastoral work operator who works among the Muslim is valid through the St Paul's Warning. “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (1 Cor 9:16). But we are recognize that their are many way to preach the Gospel as the Guidelines says the genuinely Catholic spirit of evangelization also leads to mutual enrichment, given that “each individual part contributes through is special gifts to the good of the other parts and of the whole Church. Through the common sharing of gifts and through the common effort to attain fullness in unity, the whole and each of the parts receive increase.

Same for us, we want to be a presence of the Church among Muslim as the Guidelines says. In line with true catholicity, the Church itself must become in a certain sense, a Gypsy among Gypsies, so that they can participate fully in the life of the Church. Gypsies are the right people through the Biblical words of Jesus “Foxes have holes and birds have nests but the son of Man has nowhere to lie down and rest.” We are the follower of Jesus and we took responsibility from Fr. Renato Rosso to move with mover as a new Christian Gypsies.

After finished my Theological study become a catechist. I got married two years age with my wife Dipika in Khulna. Now we are living together in a Gypsy area in Savar Sub district of Dhaka. Now we got eleven children. One is 5 months old and he is our first child and other ten children are adopted from Muslim families. My wife is very nice minded, for this reasoiake our family very big and very happy family. If I do not belong to the Gypsy community my wife and my self. We had chosen this in the Gypsy community as our missionary work. We try to preach Gospel through our daily life and Testimony. What we learn form the life of Jesus. We try to put in Practice in our life and we help the Gypsies to become good Muslim better Muslim for example there is one great friend who study at university, every Friday who comes to teach the ten children Muslim for teaching. The Quran and accompany with them to mosque and he take care of their religious life. It is a wonderful experience for me.

The Islam or Muslim law is religions law, which was given by Allah through Muhammad. The Jews law which was given to Moses was hard very strict from the Legal point of view. The law of Jesus is tender and less strict. This tenderness of the law is indeed the mark of the authentic Christianity according to the Quran. It is written “we coursed Jesus son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him (Q 57:27), explains the words compassion and mercy saying by that the Christians love each other, The Quran says about God that. He is merciful and Loving (Q..II...9O). These are the common virtues between the Christian and the Muslim are reminded to love and be merciful among themselves (Q.30.21) Islam and the true Christian meet together on this point.

“A final misunderstanding about the nature of dialogue is that it is some things solely for experts and Church leaders, but not meant for ordinary believing Christians and Muslims. The bishops of Asia have tired to dispel this notion by delineating three forms of dialogue, in which different segments of the community are involved.

“Dialogue of life: Christians and Muslims living together in peace accomplish this. Each gives witness to the other concerning the values he has found in his faith and through the daily practice of brother hood, helpfulness, open-heartedness and hospitality, each shows himself to be a God-fearing neighbor. The true Christians and Muslim offer to a busy world values arising from God's message when they revere the elderly conscientiously rear the young, care for the sick and the poor in their midst, work together for social justice, welfare and human rights.”

“Formal dialogue: Christians and Muslim direct their attention to the issues that confront believers who have a special mission to their societies and share the experiences that arise their own religious heritage. From such common roots, Christians and Muslims can search together for solutions to the pressing needs of our nations and our world.”

“Theological dialogue: In scholarly dialogue, the real differences which exist between Christianity and Islam must be acknowledged, but these differences must not be exaggerated or distorted. This attempt to clarify misunderstanding and to delineate the areas of convergence and divergence is a goal of formal, theological dialogue.”

“Christians living among Muslims have responsibility to Challenge their neighbors by living teachings. Christ's command to universal love, when truly lived, shows Muslims and peoples of other faiths that communal or national bonds do not limit God's love. When we strive to imitate Jesus who `went about doing good’, we are in effect meeting the Qur'anic challenge to compete with one another in good deeds”.

Given the fact that these dialogues were organized and carried out in the midst of consideration tension and sometimes-actual warfare between Christians and Muslims, they give evidence of considerable courage and vision in offering a serious alternative to increased polarization and conflict.

Examples of less dramatic, but equally important efforts of Christians and Muslim in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysiya and India to address together difficult national issues could be offered. In Bangladesh, dialogue has usually centered about questions of development and education. In Bangladesh dialogue groups between the two communities. In Bangladesh the emphasis has often been on sharing of personal experience. [Islam in Asia]

I believe as the Guidelines says as the Likewise, frequenting two or more Churches at the same time, which implies an anomalous rift between faith and its celebration in worship, should be avoided but in the case of the pastoral work operator. I think that is important to take all the religions that exist in the different religion group without making any confusion among the own religions identity and religion concluding. I ward to strong on different work between our work and European work in the hand of the Guidelines says that the pastoral care of Gypsy youngsters an urgent matter to be given priority for us the priority as to be given to the Gypsy family become all our youth people (the teenager) are married and for this reason all the interests need involve to the family. I think all Asian Gypsies family as like some that all youth have new family. My personal experience if catechists means who is to be agent of interrelations dialogue. It is easy to make dialogue with family then a person although some time a part of family (young) is better then family in the sense of Bangladesh family is better to give priority for Gypsy.

We call my family and the some families that are call open family. We are living in Gypsies Muslim when thein Muslim love me that who I am Christian they love the Christians when they love our family they are loving the Church and consequently they love Christ and when our family loves them as the Catholic Church who loves them in this way.