With no priest to minister and no faithful to pray, an Armenian church in Bangladesh has one last parishioner: a Hindu caretaker doing his “sacred duty” to preserve a relic of the city’s former commercial elite, Agence France-Presse reports.
Shankar Ghosh makes the sign of the cross before opening the entrance of the striking white and yellow edifice, built 240 years ago in the capital Dhaka.
Back then the city was home to hundreds of Armenians, a diaspora that traced its roots in the Muslim-majority nation back to the 16th century and eventually rose to become prominent traders, lawyers and public officials.
The last known descendant of this community left Bangladesh several years ago — but not before entrusting the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Holy Resurrection to Ghosh, who had already lived within its grounds for half of his life.
“I love this work. I consider it a sacred duty bestowed upon me,” the 61-year-old told AFP.
“Whether it is a church, temple or mosque, I believe all are for one God,” he said.
Four decades ago, Ghosh worked at a jute factory – an industry pioneered by Armenians in the region – where he struck up a friendship with the family running it.
Through them, he met church custodian Michael Joseph Martin, who invited Ghosh to be his assistant.
The young man moved into the church compound in 1985 and never left. His 30-year-old son was born in the compound and acts as its resident historian.
When Martin moved to Canada in 2014, he handed his protege the keys to the church.
Ghosh became full-time custodian after Martin died last year at the age of 89, and is now supported by overseas Armenians – led by Los Angeles-based businessman Armen Arslanian – who keep the church running.
According to AFP, baptisms and weekly mass haven’t been held in the church for several decades.
But the church comes to life every Easter and Christmas, when a Catholic priest holds services attended by ambassadors stationed in Dhaka.