Inter-faith Dialogue in Bangladesh: Way of Peaceful Co-existence

Interfaith, Uncategorized

Interfaith Dialogue in Bangladesh

Inter-faith Dialogue in Bangladesh: Way of Peaceful Co-existence

Dr. Md. Iqbal Hossain[1]

 

Abstract:

Freedom of religion is a basic stone of the Bangladesh Constitution of 1972 but the original article was amended in 1988, Article 2A of the Constitution states that “The state religion of the Republic is Islam, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the Republic”. Two words, such as “peace” and “harmony” need close attention. In this context, peace means absence of violence and harmony means absence from conflicts. It is obvious that practice of religion by all people belonging to various religious groups within Bangladesh have the “constitutional right” to follow their religion peacefully and harmoniously. We think this peace and harmony of course will develop to setup and involve religious leaders and civil society among the religions. But how? There are several ways to develop peace and harmony but interfaith Dialogue among the religious leader and civil society among the believers of the religions one of the best way for remote level peace and harmony. This culture has been introduced in Bangladesh but not long ago. United Nations are working for interfaith (interreligious) Programme, an essential component of intercultural Dialogue aims to promote dialogue among different religion, spiritual and humanistic traditions in the world where conflicts are increasingly associated with religious belonging[2]. In Bangladesh there are several civil and multicultural organization are working to enhance the capacity of tolerance, respect and good understanding among the different believers through interfaith Dialogue. We will examine in this article exploring activities of the organization who are working on this.

Key Words: Interfaith, Dialogue, Multicultural

Purpose:

Provide information of interfaith Dialogue for the national bodies, Organizations and institutions of each faith to come together to build understanding and harmony in the Bangladesh context.

Objectives:

  1. To be a model of how different faiths can live harmoniously together in Bangladesh
  2. To build understanding, good will and a sense of community between people of different faiths
  3. To learn each other, especially resolution Hindus and Muslims relation in the country.
  4. To share our knowledge and insights with others
  5. Work together to achieve common goals for social peace and prosperity.
  6. To support each other in times of difficulty, emergency and work for conflict transformation in Bangladesh context.

 

Research Methodology:

Interfaith Dialogue is new sociological term for development of social harmony, friendship, neighborhood with peaceful co-existence. In Bangladesh, Social harmony is well practiced customs of thousand year’s history. I want to examine and collect the name of organization and institution who are working for enhancing relation with different faiths, cults and groups though Interfaith Dialogue as primary source. Of course we will use some publish selective secondary source and Internet data.

 

Interfaith dialogue:

Dialogue is the relation with different believers who come to mutual understanding and respect, so that their lives, despite the differences with each other. This term refers to the active cooperation between different religions, people, individually and collectively. All believers remain true of their own text while respecting the rights of others to practices their own religion.

 

Interfaith Concept in Different Religion:

Judaism:

The Modern Orthodox movement allows narrow exchanges on social issues, while warning to be cautious in discussion of doctrine.[3] Reform Judaism, Re-constructionist Judaism and Conservative Judaism encourage interfaith dialogue. Building positive relations between Jews and members of other religious communities has been an integral component of Reform Judaism’s “DNA” since the movement was founded in Germany during the early 19th century, according to Rabbi A. James Rudin. It began with Israel Jacobson, a layman and pioneer in the development of what emerged as Reform Judaism, who established an innovative religious school in Sessen, Germany in 1801 that initially had 40 Jewish and 20 Christian students. “Jacobson’s innovation of a ‘mixed’ student body reflected his hopes for a radiant future between Jews and Christians.” [4] Moravian born Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who founded the Reform movement in the United States, sought close relations with Christian church leaders. To that end, he published a series of lectures in 1883 entitled “Judaism and Christianity: Their Agreements and Disagreements.” Wise emphasized what he believed linked the two religions in an inextricable theological and human bond: the biblical “Sinaitic revelation” as …”the acknowledged law of God.” [5]

 

Christianity:

In traditional Christian doctrine, the value of inter-religious dialogue had been confined to acts of love and understanding toward others either as anonymous Christians or as potential converts. In mainline liberal Protestant traditions, however, as well as in the emerging church, these doctrinal constraints have largely been cast off. Many theologians, pastors, and lay people from these traditions do not hold to uniquely Christ centric understandings of how God was in Christ. They engage deeply in interfaith dialogue as learners, not converters, and desire to celebrate as fully as possible the many paths to God. There are so many text stimulates interfaith dialogue. Bible says :  “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”[6] “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”[7] “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”[8]  “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”[9]

Islam:

Islam has long encouraged dialogue to reach truth. Dialogue is particularly encouraged amongst the People of the Book (Jews, Christians and Muslims) as Qur’an states:

قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَى كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلَّا نَعْبُدَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَلَا نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَقُولُوا اشْهَدُوا بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ

“Say, “O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah .” But if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims[10]

 

Hinduism :

Swami Vivekananda, touched the hearts and minds of the participants through his clarion call for religious unity and religious tolerance. He Said “As different streams, having their sources in different places, all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”[11] In Hindu scripture said:

Awnsmv mZ¨g‡¯Íqs †kŠPs msh‡ge P |

GZs mvgvwmKs †cÖv³s ag©m¨ cÂjÿb&g ||

It means These five are said to be the signs of human religion or humanity, not being jealous, stealing, being moderate, clean and clean, and truthful.[12] Shami Bibekanonda said : “Human body is a highest temple of God… Help and not fight.. Assimilation and not Destruction..Harmony and peace and not dissension.[13]

 

Buddism :

Buddah said :

bwn †e‡ib †eivwbm¤§wZÔa Kz`vPbs

A‡e‡ib P m¤§wZ Gm a¤§ mb݇bv

(Na hi verena,sammantidha kudacanam / Averena ca sammanti,esa dhammo sanantano)

According to Buddhism for a man to be perfect  two qualities need to be developed equally.  Compassion on the one side and wisdom (Panna) with the other. Here compassion refers to love, charity, kindness, tolerance and such noble qualities on the emotional side or qualities of the heart. It`s actually common declaration in Buddhist tradition. Above scripture are call to common qualities of human without any barrier of cults and religions. In 2010, the Dalai Lama was joined by Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and Islamic scholar Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University when Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion hosted a “Summit on Happiness”.[14]

 

Major Interfaith Organization in Bangladesh:

Bangladesh is known as a Muslim dominate country but it is a multi-cultural and multi-religious secular state shared by Muslim, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. There are so many organization and development partners are working on peace and coexistence policy. But now I am going through to disclose the organizations who were established for building harmony and peace among the different faith and groups .

 

Islamic Foundation Bangladesh:

Islamic Foundation Bangladesh (Bengali: ইসলামিক ফাউন্ডেশন বাংলাদেশ) is a government organization under the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Bangladesh working to disseminate values and ideals of Islam and carry out activities related to those values and ideals. They have major activities to disseminate the message of peace of different religions and coexistence policy of government in the country.[15]  The head office of the foundation is in Dhaka, which is supported by 6 divisional offices and 64 district offices, as well as 7 Imam Training Academy Centers and 29 Islamic Mission Centers. The director general is the chief executive of the foundation.[16]

 

Dhakeshwari National Temple :

Dhakeshwari National Temple (Bengali: ঢাকেশ্বরী জাতীয় মন্দির) Ðhakeshshori Jatio Mondir) is a Hindu temple in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is state-owned, giving it the distinction of being Bangladesh’s ‘National Temple’. The name “Dhakeshwari” (ঢাকেশ্বরী Ðhakeshshori) means “Goddess of Dhaka”. Since the destruction of Ramna Kali Mandir in 1971 during the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Dhakeshwari Temple has assumed status as the most important Hindu place of worship in Bangladesh.[17] Generally authority of temple are working for Hindu religion and rituals but occasionally they are doing interfaith activities. It is a holistic ,huge pilgrims are visiting regularly this temple. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi prayed at the temple during his official visit to Bangladesh on 7 June 2015. He was given a model of the goddess Dhakeshwari by the temple authorities.[18]

 

Hindu Religious Welfare Trust :

Hindu Religious Welfare Trust is a national government trust that looks after the welfare of the Hindu community of Bangladesh and is located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Hindu Religious Welfare Trust was established in 1983. It is under the Ministry of Religious Affairs.[19] The objectives and objectives of the Trust will be to work together to achieve the overall welfare of the people of Hindu religion, to coordinate communal harmony and to establish peaceful society.[20]

 

Buddhist Religious Welfare Trust :

Buddhist Religious Welfare Trust : Buddhist Religious Welfare Trust a statutory body under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The government established this Trust in 1983 with the intention of commemorating the religious welfare of the Buddhists, which is the Ordinance of the President, 69. The Trust is run by the Honorable Minister, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Chairman of the Board, and the Board of Trustees, a member of the Buddhist community nominated from the Buddhist areas of the country, by the Board of Trustees, a member of the 7-member government, by becoming Vice-Chairman and 5 eminent persons.[21] The authority of the trust has strong affiliation with the leaders of different religions through interfaith dialogue and activities.

 

 

Christian Religious WelfareTrust :

Christian Religious Welfare Trust established under the Christian Religious Welfare Trust  Ordinance, in 1983. After 26 years of issuing an ordinance ,on November 5, 2009 officially formed the trust. Many expected Christian Religious Welfare Trusts were formed for helping and enhancing Christian religious activities in the country. It is an agency under the Ministry of Religious Affairs.[22] They are working majorly for developing Christian religious belief and community. The trust promotes inter-religious activities in the country through their channel.

 

Center for Intre-Religious and Intercultural Dialogue :

The Dhaka University authority  establish Centre for Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue in 2008. This proposal of the center proposed by famous and eminent professor of Dhaka university Dr.Kazi Nazrul Islam. This proposal was approved by the Academic Council and by the Syndicate of the University on March 04, 2008.[23] The Centre for Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue is a leading center among the universities of Bangladesh who are working in interfaith and intercultural field. The centre now have Training programe for the young boys and girls for dialogues and to improve there relations of Muslims with the people of other faiths. The Center conducted The 2nd International Conference on Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, 2010 : Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhawan, University of Dhaka.

 

Department of World  Religion and Culture :

Department of Comparative Religion, University of Dhaka, was established on December 1,   1999 with Dr. Kazi Nurul Islam as the Chair. The department was renamed   as the Department of World Religions and Cultures in 2000. The department has a   well-equipped library with a rich collection.  Immediately after the department was   established, the Secretary General of the UNO Mr. Kofi Anan and Pope   John Paul II congratulated the then Vice Chancellor Prof. A. K. Azad Chowdhury for this sincere cooperation to establish a Department of this   kind. [24]  This is a only academic department in the name of world religion among the universities of Bangladesh. They are doing important job for interfaith activities through there research, syllabus[25] and co-curricula activities.

 

Faculty of Theology and Islamic Studies :

Faculty of Theology and Islamic Studies is one of founding faculty among the two pioneer faculty of the Islamic University, Kustia, Bangladesh. This is a government funded only public Islamic University in the country regulated by the act 1980.[26] Three departments are continuing their academic activities under above faculty.  D`awah and Islamic Studies is one of the founding and leading academic subject among the departments of the faculty. There are 400 marks in undergraduate and graduate level on comparative religion and in interfaith[27]. There are proposed Faculty in the name of Faculty of Islam and comparative religion. We are hopeful it will work as academic unit soon.

 

Council for Interfaith Harmony, Bangladesh:

Council for Interfaith Harmony, Bangladesh is a leading organization in the country. They working every corner of the country for de-radicalization and establish harmoney within the religious leaders of different faiths. It is a common platform for interfaith dialogue.  Executive committee of the organization made with combination of the different religious leader[28]. They organized Grand National Conference in Bangabondhu National Auditorium in 2006. Former prim minister was the chief guest.[29] Five thousand deligates were present in this conference from whole over the country.

 

Shorbo Dhormio Shompriti Shabha (সর্বধমীয় সম্প্রীতি সভা)

Shorbo Dhormio Shompriti Shabha newly founded in 2013. One of the founder Sanjeeb Choudhury said, ‘Bangladesh is a land of diverse cultural tradition and religious belief which has a unique history dating back more than a thousand years. She has been known to be a paradise of communal peace and harmony since time immemorial. Its not that only we are claiming it, rather its an appreciation of the entire world. Our ancestors did not made themselves liberal by going through seminars and symposia or by receiving special trainings from others. They got united for the sake of their own urge, once who settled on this fertile land of Gangetic Delta coming from different corners. Though, in passage of time, there grew differences in their religious beliefs and social customs, they have never been deviated from the spirit of solidarity. This is the boast of us. This is the torch bearer of our enlightened mentality.

The way the people of all faiths; Muslims, Hindus, Huddists and Christians, are living in peace in Bangladesh, is a glowing example of communal harmony even in this tumultuous contemporary world. But the evil forces, who want to cause breaches in our harmony which has been being carefully brought up for thousand of years, aren’t sitting effortlessly. Recently it has manifested its presence through the attacks on Buddist people, Buddist temples, destroying Buddha statue and looting and seting fire in the houses of them. Looting and destroying houses of Hindu people and Hindu shrines are also taking place now a days isolatedly at different spots of the country. Panic seized the minorities as these unusual incidents have not yet been checked properly. What is the most sinister fate about that is, in stead of bringing the perpetrators to justice, efforts are being made to gain petty political advantage. As a result, a state of confidence and reliability on one another is still remaining un restored.’[30]

In this circumstances, if the people of different faiths living in this country just sit idle and express only frustration, situation will get more aggravated rather than elevated. In the independent Bangladesh, repeated efforts were made to shatter the non-communal spirit of ours. Those who tried to curb this mischief by keeping aside their religious identity, cannot claim to be very successful. So now, the time has arrived for the religious loving people to get united and stand upright. If the people of different faiths living in this country who really love and practice their religions, become active and functioning accompaniedly with one another, the long tended tradition of non-communalism of Bengal will become more and more resplendent. Shorbo Dhormio Shompriti Shobha or Organization for Communal Harmony of All Faiths or (OCHAF) which was established on 5 April 2013 solely aims at achieving that objective.[31]

 

National Council of Churches in Bangladesh : (NCCB)

Established in 1949 as East Pakistan Christian Council (EPCC).  After the emergence of sovereign Bangladesh in 1971 the EPCC renamed as the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh (NCCB), and in Bangla the Jatiya Church Parishad, Bangladesh (JCPB). ​NCC Bangladesh is a National Ecumenical fellowship of Churches working for greater Unity in Diversity to promote Faith, Witness and Services towards a just, humanitarian and peaceful World. Today NCCB brings together Fifteen Protestant denominational Churches and eight Christian Organizations/Associations with more than One hundred twenty thousand members all over the Country, including close functional relationship with Roman catholic and other fraternal bodies.[32] NCCB have a strong department of Ecumenism and Dialogue. They promote ecumenism and encourage to involve with new issues which are interlocks with contemporary educational movement. They Organize interfaith dialogue, workshop, meeting, training, training and consultation with other faith people n the society.”[33]

Major objectives of the Organizations:

Following are the major objectives of the interfaith organizations in Bangladesh:

  • To undertake, promote, and support programs that ensure interfaith harmony in the country.
  • To promote friendly relationship and broad consensus of purpose amongst faith leaders.
  • To convene, when necessary, conferences,
  • To Condemn all violence in the name of religion and way forward for peace in the society.
  • Workshops, and seminars at such times and at such places as may be decided by the different organizations.
  • To strongly advocate for access to resources, services of the poor people.
  • To accept any request, gift, donation, or subscription towards, or to accumulate and provide fund or an endowment or WAQF and to invest the same and apply the income arising there from or to revert the capital thereof, for any of the objectives of the organizations.
  • To undertake various motivational and promotional activities to raise the ethical standard of people at large of the society.
  • To motivate the young force of the society to maintain line in line with their respective faiths to bring greater happiness and peace in the society.
  • To ask the government to consider providing extensive support to faith based organizations and leaders (access to information, training and financial resources) in order that they may accomplish our role efficiently.
  • To initiate and lead direct and indirect organized action in the best interest of the faith of the people in the country.
  • Lunch action based program against global terrorism that wants to demolish human being.

 

In Bangladesh there are so many development partners national and international are doing their activities to increase peaceful coexistence in the society. There are huge social local committee and organization who are working for harmony. I don’t explore them due to my research limitation.

 

 

Conclusion:

Interreligious dialogue is not only a religious word or a conversation with each other. It includes interpersonal interaction and relationships. It can be between individuals and community levels, such as with our neighbors, schools, workplaces and places of friendship in formal and informal occasions. Bangladesh, as I mentioned in the article is the land of different cultures and beliefs. Muslims, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhist beliefs and indigenous peoples reside in the same area and street. Use the same bus, school and store. They took the same water and the same food (with the limits of different beliefs). So we are under the blessings of our Lord. We are in regular contact with others in our daily life. Thus, dialogue is not only a formal or only academic discussion, but also a part of the daily exchange of religious and cultural views in everyday life, then tension between different beliefs are the most substantial.

 

 

[1] . Dr. Md Iqbal Hossain is working as Professor, in the department of Da`wah and Islamic Studies Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh and Chairman, Center for Dialogue Global and Peace Studies. email: iqbaliu@gmail.com

[2] . http://en.unesco.org/ 27.6.17

[3] .A Modern Orthodox Approach to Interfaith Dialogue /https:// en.wikipedia.org /wiki/ Interfaith_  dialogue #cite-93 date 12.7.17

[4].http://reformjudaism.org/blog/2017/06/08/why-interfaith-relations-are-dna-reform-judaism.12.717

[5] . http://collections.americanjewisharchives.org/wise/attachment/5194/judaismAndChristianity.

[6] . Colossians 3:13

[7]  Ephesians 4:2-3

[8] . Romans 14:1

[9] . Romans 15:7

[10] .Al-Imran : 64

[11] . http://www.srichinmoycentre.org/sri_chinmoy/interfaith, dated 12.7.17

[12] . Interfaith Issue, p.13

[13] . Op.cit.14

[14] . Editor, Mary J. Loftus; Medicine, Emory (6 November 2010). “Top 10 Things Religious Leaders Say about Happiness”.

[15] . Amran, Syed Mohammed Shah; Ali, Syed Ashraf (2012). “Islamic Foundation Bangladesh”. In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.

[16] . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_Foundation_Bangladesh,dated 5.8.17

[17] . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhakeshwari_Temple/date 5.8.17

[18]“PM Narendra Modi visits Dhakeshwari temple in Bangladesh”. Economic times. Indian times. com. Times Internet Limited. Retrieved 12 June 2015. date. 5.8.17

[19] . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_Religious_Welfare_Trust.17.6.17

[20] . http://www.hindutrust.gov.bd/10.7.17

[21] . http://brwt.gov.bd/11.6.17

[22] . http://www.crwt.gov.bd.Dated 5.6.17

[23] . http://www.ciiddu.net/date 5.8.17

[24] . http://www.du.ac.bd/academic/department_item/CRL

[25] . The department offers a   four-year B.A. Honours and a one-year M.A. course. A two-year M.Phil   programme and three year Ph.D. programme are also offered. Research   areas and fields of interest include Indian philosophy, Islam and Indian   Religions specially Hinduism and Buddhism, Japanese and Chinese   Religions, North American Religions, History of Religion, religious   Traditions and Movements, Philosophy of Religions, Religions of   Indigenous Groups, Women in Religion, New Religious Movements,   Comparative Religion between Islam, Judaism and Christianity, Mormons   and Muslims. Scholars and eminent educationists from home and abroad   frequently visit the department to hold seminars on the academic study   of religion. Dr. Joseph T. O’Connell, Professor Emeritus of the   Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto, Canada is   associated with the department as visiting faculty.

[26] .Islamic University, Bangladesh (Bengali ইসলামী বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়, বাংলাদেশ), commonly known as Islamic University (IU), Kushtia (Bengali ইবি), is one of the major public research universities in Bangladesh and the largest seat of higher education in the south-west part of the country financially aided by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and financed by the government of Bangladesh through University Grants Commission, Bangladesh. On 22 November 1979, the foundation of the Islamic University was set up in Kushtia[2] and it is operated under the Islamic University Act of 1980.[3] Islamic University began operations on 28 June 1986. It is 7th university in the country and the first university in the land of independent Bangladesh which was established after acquiring independence from then West Pakistan in 1971. It is a major international center for an excellent integration of Islamic studies with general studies and studies of modern science, engineering and technology. The university provides both local and foreign students with the facilities of undergraduate studies, postgraduate research and teaching.The standard of teaching is high and the facilities both for academic and extracurricular activities are of good quality. It is a campus-oriented university, where the academic and administrative buildings, residential halls and gymnasium, central cafeteria and auditorium are all on one self-contained 175-acre site at Shantidanga-Dulalpur, beside the Kushtia-Khulna highway. It is located about 24 km south and 22 km north of the Kushtia and Jhenidah district-towns, respectively. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_University,_Bangladesh, Dated. 3.7.17

[27] . The Syllabus of the department of Dawah and Islamic Studies, Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh, 2015.

[28] . Involve in this organization  Swami Aksharananda from Hindu, Dharmoshen Mahathero from Buddhah, Arch Bishop Paulonish Postaaha from Chritianity and Shah Hannan from Muslim community.

[29] . http://archive.thedailystar.net/2006/02/16/d60216011916.htm, 17.5.17

[30] .Sanjeeb Choudhury,Co-Convener, Shorbo Dhormio Shomprit shova, He wrote,  Aim and Objects call for Harmoney (Dhaka :  Shorbo Dhormio Shomprit shova,2016) p.41-42

[31] . http://www.sdss-bd.com/date 13.5.2017

[32] . http://www.ncc-b.org/ date 5.8.17

[33] .Booklet Published by NCCB in the name NCCB AT A GLANCE,395, NEW ESKATON ROAD,DHAKA-1000

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