Bangladeshi Catholic couple prays for justice for martyred son

SUKHRANJAN HALDER, 75 AND ANNA HALDER, 70, ARE A BANGLADESHI CATHOLIC COUPLE, who have been suffering financial, physical and mental anguish since they lost their only son in a deadly bomb attack at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church of Baniarchar in Gopalganj district two decades ago. Sumon Halder, then 24, was among 10 Sunday Mass-goers killed in the June 3, 2001, attack by an Islamic terrorist group, Harkat-ul-Jihad. The blast also left dozens injured. It was the worst terror attack on minority Christians in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Sumon, who had gotten married just five months prior to the attack, was known as an energetic youth involved in education, sports, and Church activities. The bomb went off as he approached the pulpit for the second reading. Sumon’s death threw the family into turmoil. Sukhranjan Halder was a cook for the Church for 30 years before retiring and he has struggled to maintain the family ever since. His wife Anna suffered a mental breakdown and has been paralyzed and bed-ridden since then. Two legal cases were filed by the Church over the bomb attack, but justice remains elusive as the probe is still incomplete amid alleged negligence. The elderly couple continue to live a poor and miserably life. They keep praying for justice for their son. Sukhranjan Halder spoke to Aid to the Church in Need about suffering of the family:

“Sumon was our only son and we had great hope that he would look after the family after completing his education. The bombing snatched away our dream. We have been passing our days in great misery and suffering. We are both elderly and sick. There is no income for our family except for some yearly income from our agricultural land.My wife has been bed-ridden for more than a decade now. She is paralyzed and suffers from high blood pressure and mental illness. I struggle so much to feed her and take care of her as I am also very old.

Sukhran and Anna Halder

“Sometimes our relatives and my nephews offer financial and other assistance. They do as much as they can as they need to take care of their own families. Sometimes local young boys collect funds for us. Except them no one else including the government or any NGO, bothers to check how we have been passing our days. This is the most painful matter for us. Soon after the bombing, we received 100,000 Taka ($1,180) from the government as compensation and several NGOs offered some cash and daily essentials like rice and lentils. That was a long time ago. It seems they have forgotten us.

“I suffer from severe rheumatic pains on my knees, high blood pressure and gas (acidity) problem. The rheumatic pain causes fever from time to time. My wife cannot get out of bed at all. I feed her, offer medicines, and even help her respond to nature’s calls on the bed. She is also an asthma and rheumatic pain patient. We are surviving on medicines.

“Only once in a year, on June 3, a memorial Mass is offered for the victims of the bombing. That’s the only annual program to remember those who died on the day.

“After the bombing, the government promised that we would get regular support though the local administration. I beg our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for support. We also pray that the trial ends and justice is done .Only six months ago, I was given the Elderly Allowance Card that gives me only 500 Taka ($6) per month. If we could get daily essentials from the government, we could have enough to eat and live better. My tin-roofed house is dilapidated. When it rains, water trickles down and our belongings get wet. If we could get some money, I could get the roof fixed before the rainy season.

“Our life was not supposed to be like this. The bombing was like deadly storm that has taken away all our happiness and hope. Our son was a good boy and good student. He could have been our support if he had not been killed in the bomb blast. Please keep praying for us. Few people inquire to know about us and we are grateful to those who still care for us. Only God knows if the trial for the bombing will finish before we breathe our last. It has been 20 years already and we have nearly lost hope that we will see justice done in our lifetime.”

—Rock Ronald Rozario