The diocesan priest headed the Department of World Religions and Culture for three years. The latter has 120 students and 19 professors. Antor Tripura is the only Christian student. For Muslim student, “all religions speak of human well-being."
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Fr Tapan De Rozario, a diocesan priest and an associate professor in the Department of World Religions and culture at the University of Dhaka, teaches respect for all religions and the need to know more about the faith of others. For three years, he was department chief.
“We can make difference for our students through our teachings,” he told AsiaNews. “When students come first to our department, they come with misunderstandings about other religions. When they finish our course, they return as a secular minded people, enlightened. They never become extremists and help increase harmony among different faiths.”
The Department was set up in 1999 and today has 19 professors with 120 students, mostly Muslims. Antor Tripura is the only Christian student. "Alongside the various religions, we learn moral values and deepen our knowledge of other faiths," he said.
Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country (89.1 per cent). Hindus are the largest minority is (10 per cent), whilst Christians and Buddhists together make up about 1 per cent.
At the Department of Religions and Culture, students learn about the religious traditions of the world (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and indigenous religions), compare the teachings of the great religions and study the role of women in religions. "Before coming to class, some had never seen a Christian in person," Fr Tapan noted.
Mariom Khaton, a Muslim, is another student. "We sing songs about harmony; we discuss the life of Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Krishna, Buddha,” she explained. "After I enrolled, I realised that all religions speak of human well-being. None of them teach violence; sick minds carry out acts of violence for personal interests."
In her view, "conflicts break out mainly in rural areas where there is no possibility of knowing the culture of the other. If I had not attended this course, I would never have had a clear idea about other faiths. This is why I believe the study of religions should be included in children school programmes.”
Dabashis Das, a Hindu, experienced a "psychological change since I joined. In the past I spread propaganda against other faiths, but now I understand that I was wrong. I firmly believe that if these teachings were also adopted by madrassas or schools in general, we would no longer have Islamic extremists."