New forum divides Bangladeshi Christians

After a spat over elections, Bangladesh's biggest Christian forum has split.

Bangladeshi Christians take part in an ecumenical Easter Sunrise Program in front of the National Parliament building in Dhaka in this 2011 file photo. A church official called for unity after disgruntled leaders launched a new Christian organization in Bangladesh. (Photo by Chandan Robert Rebeiro)

A new Christian association has been launched in Bangladesh dividing former organizations and jeopardizing Christian unity, says a Catholic Church official.

A group of Catholic and Protestant leaders formed the new Christian Association, Bangladesh (CAB) after 101 members met in Dhaka on March 11. Leaders of the group are a breakaway faction of the Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA), the country's largest Christian forum with some 10,000 members.

They allegedly walked out over accusations that the management board barred certain candidates from contesting the Christian cooperative's recent elections by cancelling their membership.

"It seems some disgruntled leaders have formed the new group. Christians are a minuscule minority and by keeping up rivalry and division we are just weakening ourselves," Father Albert T. Rozario, convener of the Justice and Peace Commission in Dhaka Archdiocese told

"I hope leaders of both groups soon realize that they are doing wrong and work together for unity and keep divisions at bay," he said.

The BCA has criticized the formation of the new group.

"For vested personal interests, some individuals are trying to form new organization by making changes to the name of Bangladesh Christian Association. It's a heinous conspiracy to divide Christian community and to make the BCA look controversial and weaker by forming a parallel organization," it said in a statement on March 17.

"Their purpose is to spread division and confusion after their leaders failed to win the elections for BCA council and now they have formed another organization for personal and political gain," BCA president Nirmol Rozario, a Catholic, told

Conversely, the CAB member-secretary William Proloy Samadder said the new organization will become the "genuine voice" of the Christian community.

"Competition or rivalry didn't drive us to form the group but a genuine interest to do good. We are neither a counter organization or the front for any political party," Samadder, a Baptist, told

In 1967, when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan, the Christian Association of East Pakistan was formed as a national forum to protest the oppression of minority Christians. It changed its name to Bangladesh Christian Association following independence in 1971.

Christians account for less than half a percent of Bangladesh's 160 million mostly Muslim people.

Source: UCAN

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