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JPIC Staff Visits Bangladesh May 3rd, 2013

Khasi VillageChristina Herman, JPIC Office Associate Director, visited Bangladesh in late March/early April. Her daughter, Emma, accompanied her, taking thousands of photos and copious notes. Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI graciously hosted a ten day trip around the Sylhet region of NE Bangladesh, which provided a fascinating look at the lives of the indigenous Khasi people and the issues confronting their villages. The Oblate mission in Bangladesh started in the Sylhet region, and there are a number of parishes among the indigenous peoples of the area.

Frequent national strikes (or hartals) called by a political opposition determined to undermine the government made the trip challenging, but the group covered a lot of ground.

Sharif Jamil, Buriganga RiverKeeper

Sharif Jamil, Buriganga RiverKeeper

In Dhaka, Christina teamed up with the Bangladesh WaterKeeper, Sharif Jamil, in an examination of environmental and labor issues related to the leather and garment export industries. They visited the Buriganga River, leather tanneries north of the city, a massive garment factory, and had a number of informative meetings with factory owners and managers, labor union organizers, and environmentalists.

Polluted Water from Leather Tanneries

Polluted Water from Leather Tanneries flows into the Buriganga River

The tanneries are a large source of pollution for the main river flowing through Dhaka, a megacity of an estimated 18 million people. Millions depend on the rivers for bathing, washing clothes, and transportation, yet they are heavily polluted with industrial and human waste. Human Rights Watch recently issued a study of the health impacts of the tanneries, which matched the findings of this trip. Untreated industrial waste flowing from the garment factories is common. A huge factor in the pollution is the lack of adequate sewage treatment for the city’s burgeoning population.

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Indigenous Land Rights Asserted in Bangladesh Conference December 19th, 2012

Participants in the December 7th Roundtable on Indigenous Land Rights in Bangladesh

Environment and indigenous rights activists demanded the formation of an Indigenous Peoples Commission led by an acceptable person on indigenous peoples’ right of plain lands to identify and solve problems towards protecting their rights.

This demand was raised at a discussion titled “Life and Livelihood Policy of Indigenous People and Legal Rights: Perspective of Khasi Community” organised by Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (BAPA) and Adivasi Poribesh Rokkha Andolon (APRA) at Reporters’ Unity in Dhaka.

An English translation of the report of the conference is available here. (Download PDF)

Ms Flora Bably Talang speaking at the Roundtable on Indigenous Peoples' Land Rights

Oblates and Khasi People Host US Embassy Staff in Northeast Bangladesh March 11th, 2012

Forrest Graham, Political Officer with the US Embassy in Bangladesh visited the Khasi people in the northeast in late February at the invitation of the Oblates. Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI, Fr. Valentine Talang, OMI, and local Khasis hosted Mr. Graham in visiting the villages near Sylhet in northeast Bangladesh to learn about the  culture, language and lifestyle of the indigenous peoples living there, and the challenges facing them.

Khasi Villagers with Forrest Graham and Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI

Flora Talang, Fr. Gomes, OMI, Forrest Graham and a Khasi friend in Muriocherra

Gathering with Khasis in Muriocherra

Forrest Graham with Khasi Elders in Muriocherra

Forrest Graham in Muroicherra Punjee

Video on Bangladeshi Khasi and Garo Peoples Now on YouTube April 12th, 2011

Sylhet area, Bangladesh

The Oblate JPIC office is excited to introduce the video, “Behind the Green,” to the Missionary Oblates JPIC YouTube Channel.

The film “Behind the Green” (Parts 1-3) is based on the historic struggle of the Khasi and Garo peoples for protection of their ancestral homeland in Bangladesh in the face of Government plans to establish an Eco-park in the Moulvibazar district. The eco-park would take up more than 1500 acres of the indigenous peoples’ land for tourism.

The films also features Fr. Joseph Gomes OMI, a missionary catholic priest working amongst the Garo and Khasi people in Bangladesh.

View the “Behind the Green” video at:

Please bookmark this JPIC Youtube Channel website and check it frequently as it will be updated with stories and actions from Oblates in ministry. Spread the word!!

Protection of Khasi Villages Overturned by Court Order March 19th, 2010

Joseph Gomes in the SylhetA January victory by the Khasi people in stopping logging on their lands has been overturned by a High Court decision issued in late February. Four indigenous villages in Bangladesh, with their 500 Khasi residents, will be destroyed if logging by a local tea estate owner is allowed to continue.

An Oblate priest, Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI, along with other colleagues from the environmental community have been working with the Khasi people to protect the forest and their villages. We urge all parties in a position to do so, to raise serious concerns with the Government of Bangladesh regarding this situation.

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Victory after Long Fight to Save Bangladeshi Indigenous Villages and Forest January 20th, 2010

Alia protest (4) Nov 15 08The indigenous Khasi people of Bangladesh have won a significant victory after a long struggle to protect the forest on which they depend for their survival. The indigenous community organized against rampant logging from a local tea estate owner who had secured permission to log the forest allegedly through his political connections. Thousands of trees and many Khasi villages will be saved as a result.

The Oblates have been supportive of the efforts to protect the forest, with Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI working closely with the Khasi people. APRA (Adibasi Poribesh Roskhya Andolon or Save Indigenous Environment Movement) of BAPA (Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon or Bangladesh Environment Movement). Fr. Gomes was joined by Sharif Jamil, National Coordinator, APRA, Joint Secretary, BAPA in successfully arguing on behalf of the Khasi people before a government panel charged with investigating the logging controversy.

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