Vassula in Bangladesh, 21-25 May 2002
On Tuesday, May 21st we arrived in Dhaka late at night. Gerhard Doege with his wife, Joy, and Fr. "X" welcomed us at the airport with a nice bouquet of exotic flowers. On our way to the hotel they showed us the banners and posters, in Bangla, indicating the time and date of Vassula's speech on Friday, 24th. With God's grace, I had the opportunity to see also the house where Vassula was living when she first was approached by her Angel Daniel and the Holy Spirit Major Seminary Church she attended. I could not describe my joy being in this wonderful country. Even though one can see the poverty people live in, I have to say that I sensed simplicity in their hearts and kindness. I was so happy to finally see the rickshaws Catarina was telling me while she was in Greece, and the hospitality of the people.
When we settled in at the hotel, although late, Vassula discussed items about the meeting with the TLIG people present. Vassula indicated to all of us that the Lord is sending her not only to other churches than the Orthodox and the Catholic but also to other religions: God is sending her back to Bangladesh to address mostly the Muslims. This message is not a call only for the Christians but for all human kind and the Lord wants her to address them, even if only 5 of them attend her meeting. Vassula also indicated that it was very essential that a Muslim Imam would be present and open the meeting with a prayer. (Earlier this year, in March, in one of the TLIG Association gatherings in Dhaka for the preparation of this meeting, Gerhard had the inspiration of having an Imam recite a prayer at the opening of the meeting). It is true, the organizers had to overcome all the obstacles the devil was putting in their way - even to the last minute - to fulfill the inspiration in which Vassula discerned the Will of God.
The next morning Vassula had another meeting with the organizers. The suite she was staying in reminded me of a busy office rather than a hotel room. People where coming and going all the time. There was so much movement going around, discussions, confirmation of attendances, etc. It was then when, while Vassula was discussing what was needed in order to have a successful meeting, one of the organizers spontaneously suggested whether they could also invite a Hindu and a Buddhist representative! Vassula was excited with the idea and so was the rest of the group. This was a beautiful surprise from our Lord. It was obvious that God's plan was for Vassula to have her first inter-religious meeting in Bangladesh! Praises be to our Lord, since He is the One who makes the plans and accomplishes them in His time!
There was a lot of work to be done though. Things did not seem easy, or promising. Faith and a lot of prayers were needed!
After lunch, Duleep and Catarina asked us if we wanted to visit the Beth Miriam during the school hour. Vassula preferred to get prepared for her meeting. Her focus was now on her speech and she devoted every spare moment getting prepared for it.
In the afternoon I had the honor to visit the Beth Miriam. It was exactly as they had described it. I was so touched from the presence of our Lady that before entering the house I made the Sign of the Cross! I felt the same devoutness as when I enter a Church. The children welcomed me with a bouquet of flowers. Duleep and Catarina were so happy to be back and see the children. They both told me that they really missed them. It was so moving watching them learning how to read and write. They where also very happy with our presence, and they showed special affection to Catarina. They loved it when I took pictures of them. They where full of joy. No one could imagine where they live and under what conditions. Their beautiful, huge innocent eyes and the smile on their faces did not betray their poverty. After all, they are poor children from the slums near by without any means for education! May God bless them!
When we got back to the hotel, Vassula was still working on her speech and different people where now in her room. It was so nice meeting all these people that definitely played an important role for the success of the meeting! Sonia, a Muslim lady and a good friend to the group, had provided Vassula with the Koran she had asked for and willingly helped her to find faster some verses from the Koran that referred to the Holy Spirit. Vassula was already practicing a prayer from it that she would say in Arabic. At some point, Vassula said with a big smile on her face: "God will use every single gift that He has given me! See, He is now having me say a prayer in Arabic! It was not by chance that I was born in Egypt and learned Arabic as well!"
It is important to mention here what Vassula told us: when she started receiving the messages back in 1985, she had bought a Koran to see what similarities exist between Christianity and Islam. While reading the Koran back then, she was keeping some notes from verses that were similar to the Bible. At that time she had no idea that after 16 years she would have to use the same notes of the verses that the Holy Spirit helped her pick up from the Koran, for her speech today!
The next morning, Thursday 23rd, Vassula was scheduled to have a press conference. The turnout was very good. At least 10 reporters from English and Bangla newspapers and one TV channel were present. We were very happy about it. Yet, what surprised us and made us even happier, was the fact that the Muslim Imam ?? who was invited to participate at Vassula's meeting - also came to listen to what Vassula had to say. Praises be to God!
Vassula began her introduction by mentioning that it is an honour for Bangladeshi people that God chose their country to reveal His message of "peace, reconciliation, unity and love". She gave a brief summary of how her angel approached her and how he drew her attention to God. She mentioned her purification through which God allowed her to see her sins with His eyes and show her what offended Him. She said that God told her from the beginning of this revelation that the messages of True Life in God will spread all over the world. A prophecy that is being fulfilled!
After her introduction, the reporters asked her some questions. The first asked what is her opinion about what is happening in Israel and Palestine. Vassula said only prayer could stop this hatred. The more people pray, the more the possibilities to have peace in those territories and around the world. Another one asked whether she has got in touch with politicians, since the messages talk about peace, and inform them about the message. Vassula had the chance to tell him that she has made efforts to get in touch with politicians and in some countries she has met some. She also mentioned that she had asked to meet with the President of Bangladesh to inform him that the purpose of her visit to his country is not to proselytize but to pass on a peace message, guiding the people to live a life of prayer and holiness.
Another reporter asked whether she could prove that it is God that speaks to her. Vassula asked him in return, "can you prove to me that God exists?" It is not easy. The only proof is the result of the messages. The Fruits. Vassula is just a housewife. She has no power and authority of her own. How can a housewife transmit such a powerful message throughout the world if it is not done with the grace of God and through His Power? A Christian reporter (we had only two Christians present) asked her about the importance of unity of the Christian Churches. Vassula told him that Christians are in sin because of their division. Division is a great sin in the Eyes of God and it doesn't come from God. Within the Church there is division and competition. Lay people and Church authorities have to humble them selves and unite. They can start by unifying the dates of Easter. She also said that God is talking also about general unity, because there is also division within families and peoples in the world.
After the press conference, Vassula gave a brief interview to a TV channel where once again she pointed out that God is sending her out to the world as a messenger to transmit His message of peace, love and unity.
After the press conference, we all had lunch. All the reporters were invited and of course the Imam. He was our guest of honour. To show respect to his position and authority, Vassula requested from him to say a prayer and bless the food. During lunch, Vassula had the opportunity to have an intimate discussion with him and he expressed his enthusiasm and pleasure to participate at her meeting. God did His miracle again! He touched this man's heart. We were all looking forward to the meeting.
When we went back to the hotel, Vassula took out her notebook and continued working on her speech. As I mentioned earlier, each spare moment was precious to her, and she preferred even to skip dinner than lose some time from her studying. She wanted to do her best and get as much prepared as possible to glorify God.
Duleep and Catarina invited me again to the Beth Miriam. It was lunchtime. Praises be to the Lord because He gave me the chance to go to this blessed place again. I was so moved seeing Duleep serve the poor with so much joy. What surprised me was seeing an old Muslim man, after finishing his lunch pray (with discretion) in front of Jesus' Sacred Heart icon, thanking Him for the meal. Even though he is a Muslim, he showed respect and gratitude to our Lord.
When we got back to the hotel, we found Vassula once again surrounded by people working for the meeting and making arrangements for the last details. I really couldn't contribute much; so, I mostly observed Vassula with what peace and wisdom she was handling situations. What impressed me though most was her dedication to her mission. May God bless her and always help her!
Late in the afternoon we had Mass, and then we watched the local news where they showed some shots of the press conference and information about Vassula's visit and the purpose of her meeting in Dhaka. We all cheered and praised our Lord for that!
The next day in the morning we visited the Korail slums in Gulshan. Gerhard and his wife, Joy, have been visiting and helping this slum for years on Fridays and the club Gerhard is a member of has created a kind of "clinic" to support medically the sick. Nevertheless, never in my life had I seen so much poverty! The people are actually living in "houses" - if I may say so - made out of 'berah' - bamboo leaves arranged together to form a kind of wall - and covered with plastic spreads to keep out the rain, without electricity or water. One water pipe serves as the main source of water supply to accommodate more or less 50 of these "houses"!
The young children followed us wherever we went. They did not beg for money or food, it just seemed that they enjoyed our presence and enjoyed posing for us for picture taking. It is incredible under what conditions people can live. Yet, they survive and you do see a smile on their face! Who is responsible for their poverty? Isn't it us all, our sin of indifference? These people live by the grace of God. I felt really depressed seeing all this but I know that God has not abandoned them.
In the afternoon we arrived at the "Women's Sports Complex" where the meeting would take place. Vassula wore a beautiful salwar-kamiz, a south-Asian outfit to honor the people.
As so as we arrived, we sensed that something was wrong. Soon we found out that the Imam was hesitating to attend the meeting. We suspected that someone had told him that if he attends the meeting it would turn against him as Vassula actually came to his country to proselytize. Duleep and Sonia went to talk to him. Thank God, they did convince him to participate. We were relieved, and also happy to see that the Hindu and the Buddhist representatives were present already. Later on, we found out that another young Imam would also be attending the meeting. The success of the meeting depended now on the Holy Spirit.
Many people had worked really hard for months to put together everything for that meeting also: from banners, posters and flyers to the huge stage that was imposing with the symbols of "True Life in God", the local music and also the books: not only Christian members of TLIG from Dhaka and the near by villages, but also a good number of Muslims and Hindus working for Novartis Bangladesh, under the guidance of Gerhard Doege, worked fervently for the glory of God. Everybody helped according to their gifts. Mrs. Patricia Quiah, one TLIG friend, did the announcements in English and Bangla, and Fr. Bernard Palma did Vassula's translation in Bangla.
The opening of the meeting began at 15:55 with a recitation from the Koran by the Imam. Gerhard gave a brief introduction about Vassula and her mission. After that, Vassula began her speech with a prayer from the Koran in Arabic during which she covered her head out of respect as the locals do. This gesture touched all the audience that consisted of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, and Christians. Vassula continued with the recitation of the Beatitudes in a slow and very touching way that penetrated our heart.
She continued giving a brief introduction of how this revelation began with her Angel in Dhaka. She said that it is an honour for the Bangladeshi that God chose their country to reveal His message that has been spreading all over the world. The call of God is a call for all people. It is a call for peace, reconciliation, love and unity. God is a God of mercy. He will manifest Himself and give messages to instruct and warn His people. In the Koran it says that God is free to send warners to correct and teach the people to live holy. Vassula continued saying that a change of heart is needed to become better people and honour the nobility of God's image. God wants us to become better people. To do good to others. If people want to prove themselves as faithful to God they have to prove it by their charity and love. If people have peace, they will transmit this peace. Division does not come from God. Anything that is evil does not come from God. If people love their country, they have to help their country by prayer. Prayers are very powerful. God does not want war but peace and we have to learn to live with each other with peace and love. We have to repay evil with love. Vassula also mentioned that people have to pray with their heart and not with their lips. She talked about apostasy and rebellion that dominate our days. Vassula ended her meeting with a prayer for the change of hearts and a healing prayer for the Prime Minister of Bangladesh who was having an operation in the States.
The crowd all through her speech listened with increased attention. Even the sky that was filled with clouds threatening to rain and a powerful wind blowing away almost everything from the stage, stopped suddenly and there was a peaceful and quiet atmosphere all through the meeting. The Holy Spirit touched many souls. Following Vassula's speech the Hindu representative gave a short speech indicating that unity and love is important and the message Vassula gave was all about that. The Buddhist Monk as well made positive comments about Vassula's mission and mentioned that people have to live in peace and try to become better people. At the end, the young Muslim Imam said that all religions have some things in common. One of them is to live holy, have peace and love each other. We might be different but we can live together in peace and love. The atmosphere was very positiveand one could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
The meeting ended with local songs and votes of thanks. Votes of thanks that belong entirely to our Lord for bringing to pass with His grace this first inter-religious meeting of True Life in God! Glory belongs to God!
Vassula told us that God is a God of order. It is not by chance that He has chosen this country to have the first inter-religious meeting. Let's not forget that the messages where first revealed in Bangladesh. The first Beth Miriam was also established in Bangladesh in 1999, and now, the first inter-religious meeting of True Life in God took place in Dhaka. We do not know why God has chosen this country for many of the activities of TLIG to start there, but as we go closer to Him and follow Him, one day I'm sure He will reveal it to us.
After the meeting, the Buddhist monk, Nanda Bangsha Bikkhu, asked Vassula whether she could visit his temple and meet with the other monks the next day. She politely accepted.
The next morning we went to the Buddhist temple where they were celebrating the birthday of Buddha. After their service, Vassula met with the President of the Dhammaarjika Buddhist Monastery, Ven. Suddhananda Mahathero, the General Secretary, the Organizing Secretary and the Ven. Dharmapal Mahathero, Chief Advisor of the Monastery. Vassula had the chance to inform them about God's message and her mission. They were very positive about the message. At the end of the discussion, Vassula informed them about the Ecumenical Pilgrimage that will take place in Egypt this October and invited them to attend. They said that it would be their honor to attend it and that they would make the necessary arrangements to be present.
It was so moving to see how God opens doors, how He touches people's heart and unites people for a common goal. Nothing is impossible for God. This trip was a proof to us that His merciful message is not only for the Christians, it's for all human kind! It is very sad when I see Christians reject this divine call and especially when they don't want to know what a treasure they can have in their hands!
Around 1pm, Fr. "X" had arranged for Vassula to say a few words to the seminarians of the Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Banani. 33 seminarians were present, listening attentively to her for about an hour. Vassula told them that it is essential to have a personal relationship with God in order to know and understand God. It is very important not to become "bureaucrats", "bookish" nor "technical" theologians. What is important is to give space to the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to them and to have an intimate relationship with God. Only then they will be able to serve God and His people, as He wants them to.
In the evening, Vassula, Catarina and I left Dhaka to continue our journey to India. We left Dhaka having in our hearts all the blessed moments we lived there. Our faces were glowing with joy.