Bangladeshi Catholics Dread Global Warming

Increasing Disasters Flood Region

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KHULNA, Bangladesh, AUG. 31, 2009 ( The bishop of Khulna is saying that the extreme poverty among his people is being further complicated by increasing natural disasters and global warming.

Bishop Bejoy D’Cruze stated this to Aid to the Church in Need, an agency press release reported Thursday.

The prelate affirmed: «We are becoming victims of global warming. I am always afraid of cyclones, hurricanes, and flooding.»

His diocese in the south is part of the Ganges Delta, close to the Bay of Bengal, and is vulnerable to these disasters.

Bishop D’Cruze added that «houses are in a poor condition — they are not very good at all — all of a sudden they can be destroyed.»

The agency noted that although government regulations ensure that new houses are constructed above ground level, many of the older buildings become damaged easily.

The bishop explained, «The situation is getting worse because of the untimely floods and destruction of the environment.»

At risk

The press release reported that 130 people died in May due to Cyclone Aila, and many more fatalities are expected due to natural disasters this year.

It added that Bangladesh is at the top of the 2009 Global Climate Risk Index, a list compiled by Germanwatch of the 170 countries most vulnerable to climate change.

The communiqué noted that up to 15% of the country could be lost if sea levels rise the three feet estimated by global warming researchers.

The prelate acknowledged the Church’s efforts to help the disaster victims, regardless of their caste and creed.

He said that the Bangladeshi Christians have a strong and fervent faith, and 60%-80% attend Sunday Mass even though Sunday is a working day in the country.

In his diocese, the prelate reported, there are some 400 adult baptisms every year, mostly from the «lower caste Hindus who admire the Church’s strong ethos of rights and equality.»

He affirmed that the Church’s work in education and medicine is helping the poor, as is giving witness although Catholics are «less than 1%» of the country’s population.

In the Khulna diocese, there are some 31,500 Catholics, compared to the 18 million Hindus and Muslims.

The bishop stated: «We want to train teachers well, and train them to have values. We started a Catholic teacher training college in Dhaka [the Bangladesh capital] — providing its graduates with a teaching certificate.»

The aid agency supports these goals of the prelate, along with the 50 Catholic schools of his diocese.

As well, it has helped to erect Church buildings «in areas where people are discovering Christianity for the first time.»

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