By Robin Gomes
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh hosted a Christmas celebration on Thursday in the capital Dhaka, which was attended by some 500 leaders of various Christian Churches and communities of the overwhelmingly Muslim nation.
Organized by the Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA), the pre-Christmas get-together was held at Gana Bhaban, the prime minister’s official residence.
During the Dec. 21 event, Hasina mentioned Pope Francis’s pastoral visit to Dhaka, Nov. 30-Dec.2, and urged her guests to convey her gratitude to the leader of the world’s Catholics “for his call to the international community to stand beside Bangladesh on the Rohingya crisis.”
Among the important guests of the prime minister was Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, the Archbishop of Dhaka.
Cardinal D’Rozario told Vatican News that the Christmas gathering is hosted by the Prime Minister every year at Gana Bhaban and BCA takes the initiative of organizing the event which includes a high tea party. He said at Thursday’s gathering there were about 500 Christians from all denominations.
Sheikh Hasina noted that not only the Christian community, but people of every faith were happy to see the Pope visit Dhaka. She added that in Bangladesh everyone can practice their religious beliefs and can openly celebrate their religious festivities.
Hasina also joined the Christians in singing Christmas carols and cut a cake made especially for the occasion.
Card. D'Rozario thanked the prime minister for the success of the Pope's visit. He said, “With government help, we completed all the events.” Cardinal D’Rozario told Vatican News he expressed his “heartiest gratitude” to Prime Minister Hasina, the country and everyone for helping stage the papal visit. Hasina said the Holy Father did not come for Christians only but also for all the people of Bangladesh. She said the entire country was happy with the Pope’s visit.
BCA president Nirmal Rozario presented the prime minister a Christmas card and petitioned her to recognize Easter as a public holiday.
Card. D’Rozario also expressed gratitude for “all the security measures taken to guarantee the safety of the Christians who arrived in Dhaka" during the papal visit. He also commended Hasina’s leadership saying, “by opening the borders to the Rohingya, you have become the mother of humanity."