(ANS – Lokhikul) – Just a month old, the new Salesian missionary foundation in Lokhikul, Bangladesh, depends on the Calcutta, and is in the district of Rajshahi in a country where the infant mortality rate is very high (106 children out of thousand do not reach the age of 5 ) and about 67% of the population is illiterate.
Lokhikul is in the north-west of Bangladesh in an area that is not very developed; with hardly any industry, the people make their living in agriculture labouring. The whole area plain crossed by rivers and canals; only the main roads are surfaced. Most of the houses are made of corrugated iron, wood and mud. There are three tribes which live together around Lokhikul: Oraon, Santal and Pahan.
On 5 February Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi and Fr Thomas Ellechirail, Salesian Provincial of Calcutta, officially opened the second Salesian foundation in Bangladesh. Fr Francis Alencherry, former Councillor for the Missions and at present the Rector of Utrail, the first Salesian house in Bangladesh.
There are two Salesian missionaries in Lokhikul: Fr Emil Ekka (an Indian), the one in charge of the foundation and Fr Pawel Kociolek (from Poland). They share with the local population their simple and poor life style. For electric power they use batteries which are re-charged in a shop to miles away. The material poverty is accompanied by the cordiality and kindness of the people who have willingly welcomed the missionaries. The Christian community in Lokhikul is small and the majority of the people still practice traditional local beliefs.
“I get to many villages on foot,” the Polish missionary Fr Kociolek explains. The furthest village is about 60 kilometres away. I need a motor bike, otherwise it would be very difficult. The buses pass rarely and cover only part of the journey so the rest you have to walk.”