About 1,500 Christians, mostly Catholics, and a good number of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists exchanged Christmas greetings with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who as guest of honour, sang Christmas carols along with the Christians.
"I thank Pope Francis for appointing a Bengali as cardinal,” she said. Turning to newly elected Card Patrick D'Rozario, she added, “Your Eminence, I ask not to work only for Christians, but for the welfare of the whole country, as you have done in the past."
The exchange of greetings took place in the auditorium of the Krishibid Institution, in Dakha. "Those who claim to practice religion create conflicts between faiths,” the prime minister said, “whilst those who truly believe in religion have confidence and trust in themselves, and never take unjust measures".
According to Hasina, "religion is in danger from those who try to use it in a negative way. Hence, it is everyone's responsibility to maintain the dignity of their own faith and grant it an even more solemn position."
"As a Muslim I follow my religion and I trust it. We must always maintain a peaceful environment in which everyone can practice their beliefs. My government strongly supports the equality of all religions in Bangladesh," she said.
For his part, Cardinal D'Rozario thanked the prime minister for her sincerity. “We want to be free to practice our religion and work in this country for the people with the support of the government,” the Cardinal said in his remarks.
Religious Affairs Minister Motiur Rahman praised "the Catholic Church for the crucial role it plays in the development of education and the country’s socio-economic situation."
Bangladesh, he noted, "is a nation where traditionally there has been religious harmony, even though badly intentioned people are trying to destroy fraternal relations between people of different faiths."
Archbishop George Kocherry, Apostolic Nuncio to Bangladesh was also present at the occasion.