Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Unitarians in Bangladesh : A Visit

 The story of Unitarians in Bangladesh is a tale of people who keep their faith alive and refused to let the flame of their chalice die out.  It is a story of a family or in many cases individuals who inspite of being away from their churches in a distance land yet hold on tight to the principles and beliefs of their church alive. It is a story of an undaunted spirit in spite of all odds.
These stories urged me to decide to pack my back and head on to the neighbouring country of ours. If this trip is to have a name; I would call it “the call of the free and courageous spirit of Bangladesh.”  
The Khasis, the Wars and the Pnars of the erstwhile Jaintia Kingdom first settled in Jaintiapur; the winter capital of the last Jaintia Kingdom. Then the Wars of the kingdom started to occupy in the hilly forest of the area of the Kingdom, they choose to live in the hills because they are children of the mountains and the crop which provides them their livelihood- pan leave. Pan leaves are climbing plant; therefore it needs trees to support the plant and dead leaves to support as manure. The Khasis, Pnars and Wars settlements are in the Bangladesh border with the many Northeastern states of India with which this country shares its border.
Tyngshaiñ Khongjoh who was left orphaned and was taken to Bangladesh when he was a kid more than 20 years ago, has not seen a Unitarian Church since then. He grew up alone far from any know Unitarians in Nerila the largest Khasi village in Bangladesh. He married and was about to convert to the Presbyterian church if it is not for the fact that as per Presbyterian church rule, he needs to be re-baptised again to be a member of the church. He is of the opinion that since he was already baptized in the Unitarian Church of Mawlat in the East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya, he does not see the need to be baptised again.  Since he refused to be baptized he cannot be member of the church and it was then that he decided to find out if there is any other Unitarian in Bangladesh. It was a chance meeting with Jill Lyngdoh that he learned from him that there is another Unitarian family in Akar village near Borkhala.
The story of the Unitarian in Akar is another fascinating story. Molica Pohrmen along with her mother and her brothers and sisters has moved to Bangladesh for quite some time now. The family conducts a regular service every Sunday at their home. No sooner did Jill Lyngdoh introduce Tyngshaiñ Khongjoh to the Pohrmen family, he made contact and later visited them. On the other side of the border in a village called Mukam, Sahdoi Niangti along with few members has been active Unitarians with the support of Unitarian Church for more than 7 years now. In Husnabad 7 number Ainbah Mukhim who’s naming and dedication service I conducted few years ago has been living alone surrounded by her Presbyterian and Catholic friends in the village. Even if the visit to Husnabad was a short one, yet the signifigance of the meeting is that we were able to introduced Tyngshaiñ to Aiñbah. Similarly Tresly Mukhim again from Padu, she too remain a lone Unitarian in Isla village.
The objective of my visit was to help introduce the Unitarians in this country to one another and also to get them organized. The meeting and the service at Akar on Sunday the 12th of February was a very important meeting. The meeting in the presence of the Unitarian from Nongtalang, Nongkrem, Puriang and Jowai has unanimously adopted 3 resolutions.
1.       It was decided that the Unitarians in Bangladesh form a committee to stay connected and support each other.
2.       It was also resolved that the Unitarians in Bangladesh will atleast meet twice a year, once to celebrate the Unitarian Anniversary day on the 18th of September and another during the third or the fourth week of every February in which Unitarians from the Unitarian Union can also join the Bangladesh group.
3.       It was also resolved to approach the Unitarian Union Northeast India to support the appointment of Tyngshaiñ Khongjoh as a Church Worker to cater to the pastoral needs of the Unitarians in this country.

It was a fruitful visit and thanks those who join me in the trip to Bangladesh and especially my Unitarian brothers and sisters in the country. 

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