Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Quotation of the Week (December 27, 2009 - January 2, 2010)


Photo (Toronto: December 29, 2009) © Jerome D'Costa

From my high school days, several decades ago, in Bangladesh, I have been fascinated by quotations. Great men and women of the world left such deep insights and profound teachings from their life experiences in their sayings that one cannot but pay a salute and marvel at them. Words are few, but their meanings are far reaching. One has to have attentive ears to listen to their words.

From that time on, I have been collecting quotations -- jotting down on tiny winy pieces of papers, khatas (ruled exercise books), letter-size or foollscap (legal size) papers, and noting down or clipping from newspapers-magazines-books, and so on and so forth. More than a decade ago in Bangladesh, some of these quotations have been computerized and composed in large letters and bound in several volumes. Many of my earlier collections have been lost through attack of white ants (termites), misplacement of a number of these papers, movement from one place to another and the like.

Some of these quotations still survive. Now I like to share some of these gold nuggets with you readers. Please look for them every week!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Shrine of Mary the Guiding Light (Poth Prodorshika Maria) at Noluakuri, Bangladesh


The statue of Mary the Guiding Light (Poth Prodorshika Maria)
at the shrine at Noluakuri, Dt. Mymensingh

Sister Lourdes Mary Costa, SSMI,
with some local devotees at the shrine

Photos by Father Silvano Garello, SX

On the way from Dhaka to Mymensingh, Noluakuri is a Catholic village in Bhaluka Thana of Mymensingh District. It is an outstation or sub-centre under St. Patrick's Cathedral Parish of Mymensingh town.

In 1992, when Xaverian Fathers were given charge of this sub-centre, Father Tonino Decembrino, SX, and Father Benjamin Gomes were assigned there. They took care of Catholics of Noluakuri and two other nearby villages -- Chanpur and Panchgaon. Most of these Catholics belong to the ethnic Garo (Mandi) group.

In December, 1997, after the death of Father Decembrino of cerebral malaria, Father Silvano Garello, SX, and Father Anton Wayundianto took over the charge of this sub-centre.

Presently, there is a Catholic primary school, a hostel for primary school girls, and a hostel for high school boys who attend the high school near Seed Store. The Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate have been managing a centre for women and the primary girls' hostel.

A small shrine has been built here in honour of Mary the Guiding Light (Poth Prodorshika Maria) with donated bricks from local Catholics. The shrine, dedicated in July, 2001, has a beautiful statue of Mary, designed by an Italian artist, offering her son Jesus Christ to the people as the way for their lives.

The shrine serves as a centre of prayer and devotion for local Catholics, who regularly pray the holy rosary there, in addition to arranging Masses in the front yard on special occasions. Some Catholics from Dhaka Archdiocese go on prayer pilgrimages there and share their prayer life with local Garos. Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Attack on the Pope, Other Celebrities and Mental Illness -- 3

Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: 1869-1948)
Graphics courtesy:

All Attacks Are Not By the Mentally Ill

The mentally deranged were not behind all the attacks and assassinations of important personalities. The following attacks or killings were politically motivated, pre-planned coolly and carried out in a calculated manner:

  • 1865 (April 14): An assassin shoots and kills US President Abraham Lincoln in a theatre in Washington, D.C.
  • 1948 (January 30): Another assassin kills Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi), leader of Indian independence movement, in New Delhi.
  • 1951 (October 16): Pakistan's first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan dies by bullets while speaking to local Muslim League party members in a park in Rawalpindi.
  • 1963 (November 22): John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the USA, is cut down by bullets while in an open-air motorcade in Dallas, Texas.
  • 1968 (April 4): US black civil rights (human rights) leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • 1968 (June 5): US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, while on his presidential election campaign, is shot and killed in a hotel in Los Angeles.
  • 1975 (August 15): Newly-independent Bangladesh's first Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is assassinated by some young army officers in Dhaka.
  • 1981 (May 13): Mehmet Ali Agca, a young radical Turk shoots and seriously injures Pope John Paul II when he was proceeding on an open vehicle towards the podium in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican to speak to an audience.
  • 1981 (October 6): Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat is shot and killed by some armymen in a military parade in Cairo.
  • 1984 (Ocober 31): India's first female Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, daughter of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, is killed by her own Sikh bodyguards, while walking in her garden in New Delhi.
  • 1991 (May 21): Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the eldest son of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, is killed in a suicide bomber's blast at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, India.
  • 1995 (November 4): Israel's 5th Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is shot and killed in Tel Aviv by Yigal Amir, one of the radical right-wing Orthodox Jews, who vehemently opposed Israel's reconciliation efforts with the Arabs and Palestinians.
It Is Easy to Blame Mentally Ill People

It is much easier to blame, accuse, arrest and incarcerate the mentally ill persons when attacks or killings occur. In reality, do the mentally-ill persons exactly know what they were doing at the time of doing the violence? Although modern science has come a long way on understanding mental illnesses, common people are still way behind in being adequately aware of and knowledgeable about these illnesses and dealing with the relative issues.

Those Dealing with the Public, Need Orientation on Mental Illnesses

In fact, those who deal with the public -- the police, judges, politicians, doctors, nurses, teachers, customer service personnel, and so on -- need proper understanding of mental illnesses and ways to deal with people with such illnesses.

What Is Mental Illness? What Causes Mental Illness? How Many Types of Mental Illnesses Are There? What to do with Mental Illness?

To know about and understand mental illness in its different aspects, you may visit the following blogs and websites:

(The End)

(To go to the First Page of this article, please click here)

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Monday, December 28, 2009

The Attack on the Pope, Other Celebrities and Mental Illness -- 2


Pop musician John Lennon
Photo courtesy:

Pope John Paul II Stabbed at Fatima, Portugal

Besides the present pope's, there were dozens of other cases of mentally-disturbed persons attacking celebrities. On May 12, 1982, late Pope John Paul II, on a visit to Fatima, Portugal, was stabbed with a dagger by a priest, named Juan Maria Fernandez Krohn. He was an ultra-nationalist Spanish Catholic priest, belonging to the Society of St. Pius X, who opposed the reforms and leniencies of the Second Vatican Council. He claimed that the pope was a communist and was cooperating with the Soviet Union in corrupting the Vatican. In the attack, the pope was slightly hurt and bloodied, but his injury was not revealed to the press at that time.

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi Attacked in Milan, Italy

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, attending a rally in Milan on December 13, 2009, was attacked by a man, named Massimo Tartaglia. The attacker struck at the face of the Prime Minister with a metal souvenir statue of the city's gothic cathedral. Seriously injured Berlusconi was rushed to the hospital. He suffered a broken nose and lost two of his teeth. The Prime Minister later pardoned his attacker, who police said had a history of psychiatric problems, on compassionate grounds.

An Attempt on the Life of US President Ronald Reagan

It was March 30, 1981. US President Reagan was elected to his office just 69 days ago. After speaking to a luncheon gathering of the members of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) at the Washington Hilton Hotel, he was coming out of the hotel to meet his car outside. At that time, John Hinckley, Jr., fired his revolver six times, slightly wounding the president and seriously injuring his press secretary, Washington, D.C., police officer and a Secret Service agent.

Hinckley got arrested and, when found to be suffering from psychiatric disorders, was confined to a hospital. He was pathologically obsessed with film actress Jodie Foster, who ignored his repeated advances. To draw her attention as well as to prove that he was an important person, he tried to kill President Reagan.

Beatles Star John Lennon Murdered in New York, USA

The four-member British Beatles group was world famous in rock music. John Lennon, one of the members, was an important rock star. After the break-up of the group, he was living in New York. Earlier in the day on December 8, 1980, a young man named Mark David Chapman, requested and got an autograph of the musician as he was leaving his Dakota apartment building. Late in the evening, when the Lennons returned, Mr. Chapman was still waiting in front of the building. As John Lennon passed the young man after his wife, he was called back, "Mr. Lennon?" and the young man pumped five bullets on him. Four bullets struck him except one. Seriously wounded John Lennon managed to stumble up a few steps into the office of the Dakota building and said: "I'm shot." Then he falls on to the floor. His wife, Yoko Ono, screamed for help.

A few years later, the BBC interviews Mark David Chapman for a documentary in his prison cell, where he says: "He [John Lennon] walked past me and then I heard in my head, 'Do it, do it, do it,' over and over again, saying 'Do it, do it, do it,' like that." He also added: "I don't remember aiming. I must have done, but I don't remember drawing a bead or whatever you call it. And I just pulled the trigger steady five times." Mr. Chapman described his feeling at the time of the shooting as "no emotion, no anger, dead silence in the brain."

The common thread among these attackers was psychiatric disorders.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Attack on the Pope, Other Celebrities and Mental Illness -- 1


Pope Benedict XVI
Photo from the Internet

Susanna Maiolo (25), who pulled down
Pope Benedict on to the church floor

Photo from the Internet

December 24, Christmas Eve. St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Rome. The basilica-full congregants were eagerly awaiting the midnight Mass to be officiated by Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI (82), with his fellow celebrants and assistants, begins the usual procession towards the main altar. Susana Maiolo (25), an Italian-Swiss national living in Switzerland, was sitting among the congregants. She has a history of psychiatric problems. As the pope was approaching near her place, she jumps over a security barricade, runs toward the pope and pulls him toward the church floor by holding on to his Mass vestments. Security guards rush to restrain her, yet she manages to topple the pope on to her on the floor.

In the chaotic melee, the pope is unhurt but loses hold of his papal mitre and staff, but 87-year-old Cardinal Etchegaray, who was nearby, broke his hip by falling on to the ground.

Pope Benedict quickly rose up and went on to celebrate his Mass without losing his composure. In the homily, he skipped the mention of the incident. He decried the selfishness of man. He said that selfishness "makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another." He also mentioned, "Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world."

After the pulling down incident, Susana Maiolo was taken away. It was found that she was the same person who tried to make a similar type of attack on the same pope in last year's Christmas-Eve Mass, but was restrained by a security guard before it happened. After her arrest this time, she said that she just wanted "to hug" the pope. She has been placed in a psychiatric hospital for evaluation and treatment.

The Pope, this time, was safe, but the threat to his life is real and numerous.

For videos on Susanna Maiolo's attack on the pope, visit the YouTube.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Sans Christ = Nochristmas


A Christmas creche (representation of Jesus' nativity scene)
in front of St. Lawrence the Martyr Church in Toronto

A Knights of Columbus banner, beside the above creche,
urging Catholics to keep Christ in the centre of Christmas
Photos (Toronto: December 20, 2009) © Jerome D'Costa

Dechristianization of Christmas

A kind of dechristianization of Christmas is going on in the West. There's an increasing tendency or an ongoing movement in Europe, Australia and North America, not to include Christ or story of Christ in Christmas. Commercial, corporate, media and even many social situations are bereft of Christ, although they profess to observe Christmas every year.

In the name of the separation of the Church and the State, in the name of science, Christ is falling through the cracks into oblivion. A group of atheists are playing a leading role in this.

Shopping malls, previously, used to display Christ's birth with statues or pictures of Christ, Mary, Joseph, three Magis, shepherds and angels in the stable of Bethlehem. Presently, these are almost gone. They are being replaced with only Santa Claus, Randolph the reindeer, and elves, with music and songs with no mention of Christ or Christ's birth.

Christmas Greetings Under Attack

Even in the Christmas greetings certain people are interfering and trying to impose "Happy Holidays!" in place of "Merry Christmas!" If a Christian can't even greet someone according to his or her own religious custom (similarly, if other religionists can't greet others in their own religious way), then what kind of democracy are we professing?

Keep Christ in Christmas

Different Catholic and Protestant groups in the West are rising up to the occasion and emphasizing and coaxing Christians "to keep Christ in Christmas." The Knights of Columbus, both in the USA and Canada, takes a special initiative in this matter every year. They want that Christians must be able to practise their own culture according to their own religious beliefs and practices.

To all Christians, Christmas without Christ is no Christmas. Bookmark and Share

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!


A Christmas card in Bangali style! Mary, wearing a sari, is
holding baby Jesus, whereas, Joseph, wearing chador (shawl)
and lungi (sarong) and holding a bamboo staff, keeps on watching

Graphic design (Toronto: Dec., 2009) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Today is Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. After Easter -- the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death -- this is the biggest feast day of the Christians.

Christmas means love, compassion and empathy. According to Christian beliefs, Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, became man to save mankind from sin. Christians all over the world remember this event and celebrate his birth with all solemnity and fanfare.

May the peace of Christ envelop you, may the love of Christ bring greater unity among mankind.

Merry Christmas to you all! Bookmark and Share

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Are You Aware of Feschukian Jargons?


Scott Feschuk is a columnist for the Maclean's magazine, a weekly from Toronto. Every year he comes up with some amazing jargons (see some samples above). This year's jargons, mostly based on proper nouns with their infamous traits impart new meanings that are both creative and hilarious. These feschukian jargons (see "2009 Definition Challenge" under the title "Definition Challenge: The Voting", dated Dec. 21, 2009) will open a new window for you.

Have some fun! Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Photo Meditation of the Month (December, 2009): THE DISTRESSED


An elderly couple -- husband and wife -- living a distressed life,
completely dependent on the mercy of others

Photo (at Bannerghata, near Bangalore, India: 
November, 1974) © Jerome D'Costa

The Distressed

We have the distressed in our midst. They are the most unfortunates, the fallen through the cracks, the broken ones, the helpless, the impoverished, the suffering, the anxious and the dispirited.

People can be reduced to the distressed state due to extreme poverty, chronic physical sickness or disability, too much hard labour, mental illness, neglect and abandonment, old age and the like.

One day these very people were our near and dear ones. They shared their laughter with us, they wept with us at the misfortune of someone close to us, and they empathized with us. But now they are far away from this environment.

Jesus Christ showed extraordinary concern for the distressed. He mingled with them, talked with them, comforted them, and even, at times, healed them. His words, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (The Bible: Matthew 22:39), speaks a volume on this matter.

Today, those of us who are able, those who are physically and mentally strong, those who are capable of doing or achieving anything we set our mind to, have a neighbourly and moral duty to assist the distressed among us in any way possible. Today we may have everything, tomorrow we may not.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

St. Lawrence the Martyr Church in Toronto Observes Its Golden Jubilee


St. Lawrence of Martyr Church as seen from street level

Sunday Mass inside the church

Two of the several stained glass
windows depicting the life of Jesus

Two of several other windows showing some saints

The 50th anniversary souvenir on the church
Photos (December 20, 2009) © Jerome D'Costa

St. Lawrence the Martyr Church, founded in 1959 on 1737 Lawrence Avenue East in Scarborough section of Toronto, observed its 50th anniversary recently. The place, where this impressive church now stands was once a playground of nearby St. Lawrence Catholic Elementary School.

This area previously belonged to the Precious Blood Church. Catholics of the locality felt the need for a church here for quite some time. Then in answer to a special joint petition, the then archbishop of Toronto granted a new church. Some women were at the forefront of this petition and subsequent fund-raising efforts. With the blessing of the archbishop, the church was built with Father William (Bill) W. Breen as its first pastor. The present pastor is Father Raffaele (Ralph) Paonessa, O.F.M.

Initially, the greater number of the parishoners were of European descent. Now it is really a cosmopolitan parish with people coming from different continents. According to the 2006 Church census, there were 6,919 Catholics in this parish.

Attached to the church is a friary, where some Franciscan priests and seminarians live. Bookmark and Share

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We Rembember the War Dead of Rangamatia Parish, Bangladesh


The above news item, written by Jerome D'Costa, portrays
the event of November 26, 1971 in the February 6, 1972 issue
of the Bangla weekly Purbodesh, published from Dhaka. The
photo is of Dr. Peter D'Costa, B.H.

On the occasion of the Bangladesh Bijoy Dibosh (Victory Day) we remember those brutally massacred in two villages under Rangamatia Catholic Parish, located in the present-day Gazipur District of Bangladesh. We also remember Dr. Peter D'Costa, B.H., who was a retired teacher of St. Gregory's High School of Dhaka and one of the victims of this massacre.

Immediately after the independence of Bangladesh, the Purbodesh was publishing a series of reports on the war dead under the title "Jaader Rokte Mukto Desh" (On Whose Blood the Country Is Freed).

You may read of the same event in English at:

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Jatiyo Smriti Shoudha (National Martyrs' Memorial) Memorializes the War Dead in Bangladesh

Jatiyo Smriti Shoudha (the National Martyrs' Memorial), also known as the National War Memorial, is situated at Savar, about 35 kilometres (21.7 miles) north-west of the city of Dhaka. It symbolizes the supreme sacrifice made by about three million East Pakistanis during the nine-month War of Independence in 1971. The West Pakistani forces and their local collaborators killed these people -- men, women and children -- in a planned and brutal way. The blood of these martyrs cried to heaven for justice and vengeance. Ultimately, on December 16, 1971, the West Pakistani forces surrendered and East Pakistan emerged as an independent country, known as Bangladesh, in the world map.

After the independence, the government took the initiative of building this memorial. Out of several dozen designs submitted in a competition in 1978, architect Syed Mainul Hossain's design was accepted. In 1982, construction of the main structure, artificial lake, and some other adjacent facilities was completed. The main structure or monument, made of concrete, is 45.7 meters (150 feet) high. Seven isosceles triangular planes form the main monument. When looked straight, either from the front or the back, seven conical structures merge into one and give impression of one solid structure. This author could not yet know the significance of seven isosceles triangles used by the architect. In front of this main structure, several mass graves (created by West Pakistani forces in 1971 in different parts of the country) have been housed. The entire complex covers an area of 34 hectares (84 acres) with a greenery of 10 hectares (24.7 acres) around it.

Foreign heads of state and other dignitaries, on their official visit to Bangladesh, pay tribute to the war dead here as part of their protocol. They also write their valuable comments in the dignitaries' visitor book.

My photos below portray the beauty of the Jatiyo Smriti Shoudha (National Martyrs' Memorial) as viewed from different angles.

Jatiyo Smriti Shoudha (National Martyrs' Memorial)
as seen from various angles

Photos (Savar: 1989) © Jerome D'Costa

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Poem of the Month (December, 2009): BANGLADESH


"Bangladesh" map
Graphic design (Toronto: Dec. 16, 2009) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

(Please click on the above image
to read the Bengali poem in an enlarged form)

I had written the above poem, Bangladesh, in Bangla (Bengali). The Pratibeshi, the national Catholic weekly in Bangladesh, published it in its March 26, 1972 issue. After undergoing nine-month-long degradation, persecution, and extermination of its people in the hands of the West Pakistani forces, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) became independent on December 16, 1971. My poem is a reflection of that period.

The English version of the above poem is presented below.


By Jerome D'Costa

Bangladesh, in the long nine months
Were you with child,

Like a pregnant woman

You felt nauseated at times.

You couldn't eat well
You could not toil hard as before,
You carefully covered your distended belly
Lest someone discover your condition.

Your co-wife -- the West Pakistan
Often laughed at you and was sarcastic and acrimonious,
You were disgraced, insulted and persecuted.
You'd cry out in pregnancy-related pain
And wish you were dead,
But the expectation of seeing your upcoming child

You would endure all with a smile.

Your child is born today
You've forgotten
All the past suffering, disgrace and shame.
As you had carried your child for nine months
So have you so much care, affection and attachment for him!
Nurture, tend and protect
Your adorable son 'Independence.'

Today you are separated,

Your co-wife will no longer be able to disgrace you.
Go forward with your head held high,
Your child will

Place you on a pedestal

Among the nations of the world.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Today is the Bangladesh Victory Day


Bangladesh Bijoy Dibosh (Victory Day)
Graphics © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

Bangladesh observes its 38th Bijoy Dibosh (Victory Day) today. This victory was achieved over the West Pakistani forces bent on the nine-month genocide of the East Pakistanis in the area what now is known as Bangladesh. It was a genocide because it was a planned extermination of men, women and children throughout East Pakistan.

This victory was possible due to the guerrilla struggle by our valiant muktijuddhas (freedom fighters), death of over three million people in the hands of the West Pakistani forces and their local allies, rape of about 300,000 women, sacrifices of millions of East Pakistanis who were forced to leave their homesteads to become internal refugees as well as over 10 millions who took refuge to India, active cooperation of India, and moral support of many other countries.

This victory gradually received world acceptance and Bangladesh was recognized as the new and sovereign country. Although West Pakistan, that became 'Pakistan' with the cessation of East Pakistan, gave recognition to Bangladesh and has diplomatic relations with it, failed miserably in extending official apology and making reparations for the genocide.

Today, Bangladesh, in spite of its myriad problems, made its place in the world arena and its people are making contributions in different fields. Bookmark and Share

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bibliography of Christian Publications of Bangladesh and West Bengal Is Published


The cover of the Christian bibliography book

The Pratibeshi Prakashani of Dhaka, in recent past, published the Bongio Christian Gronthaboli Porichiti (1715 - 1991) or Bibliography of Christians of Bengal (1715 - 1991). This annotated bibliography is a bilingual (Bangla and English) list of Christian -- both Catholic and Protestant -- publications (books, booklets, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, academic theses, souvenirs, and unpublished manuscripts). This 536-page book covers the period of 1715 to 1991 listing about 4,000 publications published by various Christian Churches, organizations and institutions.

An attempt has been made to include Christian publications that came out in the languages of Bangla (Bengali), English, Bawm, Chakma, Garo (Mandi), Marma, Oraon (Kurukh), Portuguese, Sadami, Santali and Tipra.

Publications included in this book come from the Catholic Church and several Protestant Churches -- Anglicans (Oxford Mission), Assemblies of God, Baptists, and Presbyterians.

Some of the several dozen categories of publications are: Bible, Bible Study, Biography, Blessings, Catechism, Christian Life, Christmas, Cooperatives, Death, Dialogue, Dictionary, Drama, Economic Development, Ethics, Faith, Family, Family Planning, God, Grammar, Health, Heaven, History, Homily, Human Rights, Hymns & Songs, Jesus Christ, Last Judgment, Leadership, Law (Rules & Regulations), Literature (Stories & Poetry), Liturgy, Love and Forgiveness, Marriage, Mass Communication, Meditation, Miracles, Music, Pilgrimage, Prayer, Sacraments, Sins, Truth, Virgin Mary, and Vocation.

The first published Christian book in Bangla was Kripar-Shastrer Ortho-bhed, written in Roman alphabet by Portuguese Augustinian missionary Father Manoel da Assumpcao, who was working at Nagori Mission, located in the present-day Gazipur District, Bangladesh. It was printed in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1743. It was a catechism in the question-and-answer form.

The other Bangla book, Brahman-Roman Catholic Sambad was written by Dom Antonio de Rozario, a son of the Hindu zaminder (feudal lord), converted at a young age to Christianity. This book is in the form of a dialogue between a Catholic priest and a Hindu Brahman. The Catholic priest tries to prove the superiority of Roman Catholic religion over Hinduism.

Boniface Subrata Gomes, the compiler and editor of this book, came up with the idea of having a comprehensive Christian bibliography after he had completed his Dhaka University Library Science thesis on a Christian bibliography covering the period of 1971 to 1980. His idea received an immediate support and an advisory committee was formed with some Catholic and Protestant Church leaders and writers. The project, started in July of 1990 under the guidance of the Christian Communications Centre, Dhaka, came to fruition with the publication of this book this year.

This bibliography is the first of its kind in the entire history of Christianity in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India. It is all the more significant because both Catholics and Protestants actively cooperated in this noble effort. Bookmark and Share

Friday, December 11, 2009

James Delorey: Tragic Story of an Autistic Boy


James Delorey of South Bar in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada
Photo courtesy:

In recent past, we were moved by the story of 6-year-old Elena Desserich, who, before her death by cancer, left loving messages and drawings on papers hidden in nooks and corners of her house in the USA. Now another story deeply moved us again.

This is the story of 7-year-old James Delorey, an autistic boy of South Bar in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. It is the story of this boy, his dog, a frantic community search for him in the woods during snow storm, a surprising feat of his survival, but also a sad end of him from hypothermia.

James Delorey was last seen with his dog outside his home on Saturday, December 5. He must have followed his dog in the nearby forest. When he was not being found anywhere, the police were searching for him in the neighborhood, affected by wet snow storm and low visibility. A big hurdle the searchers faced was that, the boy, being autistic, did not speak or respond to calls. He was also not properly dressed for cold weather with temperature going minus four degrees at night. Neighbours also joined the search but were unsuccessful.

Next day was Sunday. The storm was still razing. Several teams of rescuers were busy searching the boy in nearby thick and marshy woods. Military helicopter also participated in the search.

Around 10:00 in the morning of Monday, December 7, James' dog Chance returned home from the wooded area. Following the dog's footprints, one of the rescue teams at around 12:15 p.m. found James Delorey crouched under a thick brush 1.5 kilometres away from his home. He was suffering from severe hypothermia. He was flown to a hospital. The news of his rescue brought a great relief to all. Those, who were following this story with apprehension all over Canada and other countries, were expecting the best for him.

Paul Maynard, a spokesman for Nova Scotia's Emergency Health Services, said: "He did have very weak vital signs. That's why we transported him and are trying to warm him up and get those vital signs back to normal range. Our fingers are crossed. Hopefully a miracle will happen and he will pull through."

Dashing all hopes and frantic efforts of the physicians, James Delorey died in a Halifax children hospital in the night of December 7.

"The family would like to thank everyone involved in James' care," wrote his mother Veronica in a statement following his death. "It was amazing to see how everyone would come together. It really kept my hopes alive. We will have more to say later after we've had some time," reports the National Post.

James Delorey died quietly, but he left a loud mark in the hearts of many.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Toronto Experiences Its First Post-Autumn Snow


Snowfall in Toronto
Photo (Toronto: December 9, 2009) © Ujjal Peter D'Costa

Snowfall in Toronto
Photo (Toronto: December 9, 2009) © Jerome D'Costa

The first winter storm, emanating from the Mid-west of the USA, blew over Ontario and Quebec provinces of Canada today. The city of Toronto got more than 10 centimetres (about four inches) of snow. Rain, coupled with strong wind, made snow soggy and slushy and roads became slippery.

The eastern Canada experienced its winter storm on Sunday, December 6. The western Canada has been under bitter cold temperatures.

This is the first time in last 162 years that Toronto experienced no-snow in the month of November this year. Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 7, 2009

Denmark Hosts the UN Climate Change Conference 2009


The logo of the UN Climate Change Conference 2009
in Copenhagen, Denmark
Photo courtesy:

The two-week UN Climate Change Conference opened today with fanfare in Copenhagen, Denmark, where several thousand government, non-government organization, and other delegates are in attendance from 192 countries. The conference opened amidst both optimism and skepticism. A great number of the delegates are optimistic that a uniform policy will come out of the conference resulting in regulation of greenhouse gases and lessening of global warming.

On the opening day of the conference, 56 newspapers in 45 countries published the same agreed upon editorial, "One World, One Voice." The editorial said, "Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has bee feeble and half-hearted."

At the conclusion, the editorial said, "Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness.... The Politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice."

You may read the full editorial in The Toronto Star today.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Squirrel Nests Add Beauty to a Denuded Tree


Squirrel nests on a maple tree,
just recently denuded by fall of the leaves

Photo (Toronto: December 5, 2009) © Jerome D'Costa

Squirrels are our neighbours. They can be ash-coloured, reddish brown or black. Their presence is felt all over during the Spring and Summer. Their prancing and jumping are a beauty in action. In the Fall, when trees shed their colourful leaves and become naked, squirrel nests become visible to our eyes.

In the Spring and Summer, squirrels run and jump all over eating fruits, nuts, seeds, plant pods, and the like. They gain weight and collect fat in their bodies. They also begin to gather food in the Autumn to use them during the bitter and snowy Winter.

Some squirrels make their nests with twigs, small barks, moss and leaves in tree hollows (natural or woodpecker-made) or branch joints. They make their nests in such a way that their offspring may be safely kept there and bitter winter may not affect them adversely.

One pair of squirrels may build more than one nest to move their offspring from one to the other in case of attack from predators.

In different parks, we can see friendly squirrels coming close to people to get their feeding of nuts and seeds. Bookmark and Share

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Switzerland Bans Mosque Minarets

An anti-minaret poster used by the rightwing People's Party
to influence votes for banning further construction of minarets
on mosques in Switzerland. This poster says: "Stop! Yes for the
ban on minarets."
The poster depicts a Muslim woman in burqa
and behind her there is the Swiss flag through which
minarets are in growth mode. It means, more minarets will
spread the radical Islam which will take away freedom of
women and cause more problems in Switzerland

Poster courtesy:

Voters in Switzerland, in a country-wide referendum on November 29, approved a proposal to ban the construction of further minarets on Muslim mosques. Out of some 2.67 voters, 57.5% voted for the ban, that will find its place in the Swiss constitution after an amendment.

The Swiss government, which had opposed the ban, said in a statement: "The Federal Council [government] respects this decision. Consequently, the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted," reports

In Switzerland, out of a population of 7.5 million, about 310,000 are Muslims, who are immigrants mostly from former Yugoslavia and Turkey. Out of 200 mosques or Muslim prayer houses in Switzerland, until now only four have minarets.

The Rightwing and Nationalist Influence on the Referendum

The rightwing and nationalist political party, The Swiss People's Party (SVP), and Federal Democratic Union party forced this referendum by collecting 100,000 signatures from eligible voters within 18 months. Switzerland has the system of referendum on important issues if a significant number of people request for it. If the proposal passes by the majority people, it gets inserted in the country's constitution.

The rightwingers, in their pre-referendum propaganda, tried to show that more minarets would increase the radical Islamic influence in the country. To them, the minarets also represent the growth of foreign ideology and Islamic Shariah law that have no place in Swiss democracy. Ulrich Schlueer, co-president of the Initiative Committee to ban minarets, said: "Forced marriages and other things like cemeteries separating the pure and impure -- we don't have that in Switzerland, and we do not want to introduce it. Therefore, there's no room for minarets in Switzerland."

Swiss radical feminists also drummed up support for the ban by arguing that the tower-like minarets are "male power symbols" and reminders of Islam's oppression of women, reports Julia Werner, a local housewife in Langenthal, a small town near Bern where Muslims wanted to put up a minaret next to their prayer room, said: "If we give them a minaret, they'll have us all wearing burqas. Before you know it, we'll have sharia law and women being stoned to death in our streets. We won't be Swiss any more."

Daniel Zingg, of the Federal Democratic Union party and belonging to a Protestant Christian fundamentalist group, said: "Minarets don't mean integration. Minarets represent a refusal to integrate. The minaret is connected to Islam which does not include tolerance, religious freedom or any other freedom." He also said that "minaret is only the first step." Minarets are "symbols of Muslim victories over newly conquered lands" and "precursors to the introduction of Islamic Shariah law."

Many Catholic Christians, on the other hand, supported the Muslims in their plan for construction of minarets. The Swiss Catholic bishops in last September opposed the proposal of banning minarets. They said: "The minarets, like the bell towers of churches, are a sign of the public presence of a religion."

Giusep Nay, a Catholic and former president of the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, said: "The Muslim minority is being attacked. The initiators of this anti-minaret campaign says they want to set an example. Well, this is setting a very bad example of how to exclude a minority. This is an exclusion campaign hindering all kinds of ongoing integration efforts," reports

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities was also against any ban on minarets. Dr. Herbert Winter, the president of this federation, said: "As Jews, we have our own experience. For centuries we were excluded: we were not allowed to construct synagogues [Jewish temples] or cupola roofs. We do not want that kind of exclusion repeated."

Thomas Wipf, the head of the Swiss Federation of Protestant Churches and the Union of Protestant Churches in Europe, said: "This campaign against minarets is dangerous because it assumes that different religions cannot live together, that they have to fight each other. But we have to approach each other. We have to learn how to talk to each other. This is the real challenge."

Reactions to the Referendum

Switzerland's Muslims said that the referendum fuelled anti-Islamic feeling in the country. They also said that the recent construction of Sikh temples and Serbian Orthodox churches is proof that Islam is being singled out for discrimination.

"The initiators have achieved something everyone wanted to prevent, and that is to influence and change the relations to Muslims and their social integration in a negative way," said Taner Hatipoglu, the president of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Zurich. "We are frightened, and if the atmosphere continues to be like this and if the anti-Islamic hate increases, then the Muslims indeed will not feel safe anymore. This of course, is very unpleasant," he said.

Amnesty International has warned that such a ban would violate Switzerland's commitment to religious freedom.

The Swiss Catholic Bishops protested the minaret ban. In a communique, published on November 29, said that the people's decision to prohibit construction of minarets in the country "represents an obstacle and a great challenge on the path of integration in dialogue and mutual respect," reports The communique also affirmed that this ban implies "a manifest omission to show the people that the prohibition of minarets does not contribute to a healthy coexistence between religions and cultures but, on the contrary, it deteriorates it."

It also said: "The campaign, with its exaggerations and caricatures, demonstrated that religious peace does not happen on its own, but must be defended every day."

Monsignor Antonio Maria Veglio, A Vatican official with the Pontifical Council on Migrants, talking to the Italian news agency ANSA, said that he shared the position taken by the Swiss Catholic bishops, who called the vote a "hard blow to religious freedom and immigration."

Reasons for this Undemocratic Stance

It is sad that this undemocratic behaviour is coming out of a fiercely democratic country like Switzerland. It is a country where, the population being small, almost every one enthusiastically participates in one's democratic rights.

This proposal for banning minarets comes from deep fear among the Swiss people. Many of them fear that an increased Muslim influence will destabilize and cause division in their country.

  • They saw how a number of mosques in Europe were used by radical Islamist mullahs to denigrate Western culture and lifestyle and influenced certain immigrant Muslim youths for the cause of extremism and terrorism.
  • They saw how some of the 9/11 terrorists were Muslim immigrants in Germany. Some other Muslim terrorists from other countries had visited these people in Germany to plan and execute the New York twin tower bombings.
  • They also saw, how, in the name of Islam and restoring family's honour, several dozen Muslim teenage girls and adult women in different European countries have been bodily harmed or even killed by their own family members. The so-called "honour killing" is completely alien to the culture of Europe.
  • The present Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was once a member of Turkey's Islamist movement. In 1998, he had publicly read a poem that, among others, said: " The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...." This sort of talk will definitely not sound sweet to the ears of the Christians and other non-Muslims.
  • A few years ago, North African Muslim immigrants in France had caused riots and widespread arson. Millions of dollars worth of properties were destroyed in those riots.
  • Muslim youths, invoking Islam, participated in deadly terrorist activities in some Western countries, such as the USA, the United Kingdom, and Spain.
  • Western countries do not understand whey good Muslims, who are greater in number, keep silent in face of un-Islamic activities (terrorism, killing of the innocents, etc. in the name of Islam) of a small number of Muslims. This silence or non-opposition in such cases gives the impression that good Muslims also favour terrorism against Christians.
  • Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and few other Middle East countries still ban public depiction or display of Christian cross and construction of churches in their lands. In most of the European countries, Muslims are allowed to construct mosques. In Rome, just near the Vatican, where the Pope -- the leader of the Roman Catholics -- lives -- Muslims constructed the second largest mosque in the world. Pope Benedict XVI on a number of occasions emphasized upon the reciprocity on the part of the Muslim countries to allow building of places of worship to Christians in their countries as Muslims are allowed to build mosques in Western countries.
  • Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and some Middle East countries do not grant citizenship to non-Muslims, but Muslims of any country in the world can get citizenship in most of the Western countries.

We hope that from both sides of the aisle there will be increased efforts in accepting each other and respecting freedom of religion of every person. Peace cannot come from one-sided effort, but only from the give-and-take of both sides.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Photo Meditation of the Month (November, 2009): CHILDREN: A SYMBOL OF INNOCENCE

Children: A Symbol of Innocence

A girl child from near Tuital in Bangladesh
Photo (Oct. 14, 1995) © Jerome D'Costa

Renowned Bangali poet and 1913 Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote: "Every child comes with the message that God is not yet tired of man." Children are a wonderful gift of the Creator. Children bring hope, happiness and vitality. Children are the future parents, leaders and dynamism of the society.

Children bring about smile, happiness and empathy in others by their giggling, guileless smile, playfulness and their naivete. They act as a bonding gum between parents, siblings and other people.

Children are innocents. Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, placed a special emphasis on children. He said: "See that you never despise one of these little ones. I assure you, their angels in heaven constantly behold my heavenly Father's face," (The Bible: Matthew 18: 10-12). Once, when Jesus was preaching, a number of people brought their babies to be touched by him. His disciples, however, scolded the adults and were not allowing their babies near him. When Jesus saw this, he called for the children, saying: "Let the little children come to me. Do not shut them off. The reign of God belongs to such as these. Trust me when I tell you that whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a child will not enter into it," (The Bible: Luke 18: 15-17).

The most unfortunate and sad thing is, the innocence of uncountable number of children is robbed daily by unscrupulous people -- both men and women. These are child nappers, child traffickers, child pornographers, child abusers, child pimps and the like. Sometimes parents and close relatives are also unpardonable enemies of children.

What children receive in their childhood, always give it back to the society later in their life. If they are treated well, they will treat others well, too. If they are treated badly, they will later do the same to others.

Let's not destroy the innocence of children. Let them grow up normally with proper love, care and upbringing. They, then, will brighten the future of a family, society, country and the world.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Poem of the Month (November, 2009): THE POPE IN DHAKA


A copy of my poem written in Bengali on the visit of Pope John Paul II to Bangladesh on November 19, 1986. It was published in Doel, a collection of mini-poems, edited by Aldrick Biswas and published on December 25, 1986, from Dhaka.

I present below the English rendition of this poem.

The Pope in Dhaka

By Jerome D'Costa

You had come

You returned home,

But you left behind
A bundle of love.

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