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Bangladesh: the young face of Dinajpur

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Bangladesh: the young face of Dinajpur

The first magazine in which young people from the Catholic communities of Bangladesh talk about themselves in a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority is called “We Together”.

A magazine written by young people and for young people. An apparently simple idea, but which represents an important first for the Catholic community of Dinajpur in Bangladesh. And they are pages that today make the eyes of Father Fabrizio Calegari, a PIME missionary, who for many years has accompanied these children daily on their journey in a country where Christians are a small minority in a context with a large Muslim majority, shine. The magazine is called “We together”; it is a bimonthly 24-page color magazine and is becoming, issue after issue, a point of reference for youth ministry in the dioceses of Bangladesh. The formation of young people is precisely the area to which Father Fabrizio has been dedicating himself since he returned to his mission country three years ago after a few years of service at the Institute in Italy.

«The kids like the magazine because the heart is their stories, the concrete way in which each person lives their Christian being in a context like that of Bangladesh», says Calegari. Scrolling through the pages of routes you will come across many and very different ones. There are those who are workers and those who are professional dancers, the girl who became an artist, the policeman, the footballer who rose from the mission team to the national team. Nor could we miss the story of Father Dulal, originally from this diocese, who last year was ordained a priest for PIME and now lives his apostolate in Italy in Ducenta. These are the paths of the girls and boys of the tribal communities who, in order to attend school far from the village, were welcomed into the hostels of the diocese, a reality where Father Calegari – in Bangladesh since 1996 – lived his missionary ministry for a long time.

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«In one of the latest issues – he says – we published the story of Pius, a young man who is now a professional photojournalist. He works for a local news site, but his shots have also been published by large publications such as Guardianthe Cnn where he Wall Street Journal. He learned photography with me in the hostel: it was one of the interest groups we offered to the kids; he got so passionate about it that he attended a school in Dhaka and now this is his job. He takes beautiful photographs, he also follows events and contexts that are not simple. When we met I asked him: as a Christian, how do you experience this work of yours? He replied to me by quoting the Gospel and the gamcha (the towel) that I handed over to him like everyone else when they leave the hostel to go their own way. I do it to remember that the day we arrived we washed their feet, which is a tribal gesture of welcome but also one performed by Jesus; it’s a way of telling them that we want to live loving each other. This is why Pius told me: I haven’t forgotten about gamcha and of the Gospel. I try to live my profession as a photographer – she added – by becoming the voice of those who have no voice, to tell through photography those who suffer injustices. These words of his struck me: I saw in them a very beautiful fruit, ripened in his life.”

The challenge of educating as a daily frontier, therefore. And which today sees the young Catholics of Dinajpur personally engaged through the magazine, which is a way to support each other on the journey of faith. On the pages of “We together” there is no shortage of spaces for spirituality, with episodes of the Gospel told in a simple way through a comic, reflections, images of youth pastoral initiatives (including the small group that reached the WYD in Lisbon ).

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«When I arrived in Bangladesh – recalls Father Fabrizio – one of the things that immediately struck me was the crowd of poor people. One wonders: what can I do for so many people? There always are, I told myself, I don’t have enough strength, I’m not the right person. But at a certain point I realized that, yes, I couldn’t help everyone, but maybe I could help someone. And that I could do it with education: it is the area through which the Lord has spoken to me the most in all these years.”
Looking back, the PIME missionary says he experienced the dimension of fatherhood in the years he spent looking after boys in hostels: «I truly felt like a father: the Lord placed me next to them to walk together. It’s a journey: I share what I can, but I also receive a lot. And above all we walk together behind the only Master, who is the Risen One.”

And it is also the meaning of the service that Father Calegari continues today in the youth pastoral office of the diocese of Dinajpur. «In my missionary commitment in Bangladesh – he explains – I formed a very strong idea: it is good and right to offer them education, means, economic resources, development opportunities. But if I, a missionary, did not give them the Gospel, I would betray them. It’s the only thing I can truly give them. Let’s imagine that with a magic wand I could also bring them to a level of development, education and professionalism comparable to that of Italy. But then? Even among you I don’t see all this happiness around… You need a center to give to your existence, a deep spiritual life. Otherwise it’s all useless.”

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“We together”, reads the headline of Dinajpur’s youth magazine. But with a very specific goal: friendship with Jesus. «This is what brought me on the mission – says Father Fabrizio -. And that he still keeps me here.”

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