Click the link above to get a district map of Bangladesh.
WHY I USE THE TITLE “PASSAGE TO BANGLADESH”
The title of this series is “12th Passage to Bangladesh” because this will be my 12th visit since becoming the Executive Director of BMW in 2011. Why “Passage to Bangladesh?” Well, for those who like literary and movie allusions…
In 1871 Walt Witman published the poem entitled “Passage to India” in a collection called “Leaves of Grass.” His inspiration was that moment in the flow of history in which the Suez Canal (1869) and the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable (1866) and the trans-continental railroad (1869) were put into service after about ten years of effort for each of the projects. Whitman enthused (“O my brave soul!”) at how these modern marvels were shrinking the world, bringing humanity together. Even far-flung India was in reach! Really, and not just the stuff of dreams. Every man can be free from bondage to the soil. This will lead to the birth of a new unified humanity! We are literally having a homecoming to Eden from whence we all sprang. It is a passage to solving the world’s problems.
In 1924 E. M. Forster updates this breathless vision of the future with “A Passage to India.” In this novel, the protagonist, Muslim Doctor Aziz, living in British India, wonders if it is possible to be friends with an Englishman. A young woman with an older woman newly arrived from England want to meet real Indians and thus Aziz finds himself at a tea party making friends with several Englishman. Things go swimmingly with the new acquaintances until, through several mishaps and misunderstandings, Aziz finds himself in court accused of assaulting the young English woman. Discrimination and suspicion based on race come out strongly during the trial, so disillusioning Aziz that he vows never to befriend a white person again. Thus 50 years after Whitman’s “Passage” to Utopia, we find the passage closed, British colonialism being the culprit.
In 1984 a film was made from the novel, winning two Academy Awards and reminding us of the many inequalities based on race that still plague our world.
But all this time the everlasting Gospel has been offering the only hope not only of eternal life, but also of peace and love and unity of humanity. It doesn’t come through advancing technology, but through the blood of Christ. May our “Passage to Bangladesh” convey not a bunch of tourists to the other side of the world, but convey our embodiment of the Savior of the world and the truths he taught to brothers and sisters in Christ and lost individuals God has brought into their circle.