A meeting took place yesterday at the Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, organised by the Foundation and the Diocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue. Participants agreed to a mission statement and took an oath of mutual respect and friendship between people of different religions.
Rajshahi (AsiaNews) – About 50 Muslim and Christian leaders yesterday met in Rajshahi where they stressed the importance of mutual respect and Islamic-Christian dialogue to ensure peace in the country.
The meeting was held at the headquarters of the Islamic Foundation Bangladesh (IFB) and was organised by the Foundation and the Diocesan Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue.
The initiative is important because Bangladesh has seen a recent spike in violence against Christians and other minorities. Among the latest incidents are the attempted murder of Fr Piero Parolari, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), robberies against Catholic nuns, the murder of a Hindu priest in a temple and the murder of a Muslim man because he had converted to Christianity.
The IFB is an autonomous organisation under the Bangladesh Ministry of Religious Affairs. Its roles is to spread Islamic ideals and values throughout the country.
“Each religion teaches us to respect other religions, but unfortunately the opposite is happening,” said IFB director Mahabub Alam. “Religious violence is spreading all over the world, including Bangladesh.”
"I am in 100 per cent in agreement with the Catholic Church in wanting to build positive relationships between people of different faiths,” he added. “If we get to know each other, misunderstandings and enmity disappear."
"From now on, our organisation will boldly work to promote interfaith dialogue,” the IFB director said. “This will enable us to remove religious extremism from our country."
Mgr Gervas Rozario, bishop of Rajshahi, praised the initiative. "Harmony and coexistence between religions are the prerequisites of social justice, peace and tranquillity,” he said. “Let us build a society where people of all faiths and cultures can live in complete security and great human dignity."
"It is our moral responsibility,” the prelate added, “to leave a civilisation of love and communion to future generations. If we fail in this, hatred and violence will grow, and human civilisation itself will be at risk of destruction."
Mgr Gervas, who is also president of the Diocesan Commission, called on Muslims to "respect others’ religious teachings in order to build a world free from conflict."
Maullana Hasan, a Muslim, attended the meeting and rejoiced at the fact that "the Catholic Church decided to come here and build good relations with us. Now we can say we have created a bond of friendship. "
"The Catholic Church in Bangladesh promotes interreligious dialogue,” said Denis C. Baskey, regional director of Caritas Rajshahi. “Through these exchanges of views we uphold our duty as Catholics."
At the end of the meeting, participants agreed to a statement. “Our mission,” Mr Baskey said, “is to respect other people’s faith and live friendly among people of every religion. And we took oath to respect other people’s faith.”