03/27/2008, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Muslims and Christians to discuss letter of 138 Muslim intellectuals

For the first time in the country 35 Christian experts and 35 Muslim experts meet to dialogue. They were moved by the letter 138 Muslim intellectuals wrote to the Pope and Christian religious authorities. The event is scheduled for 18 April in Dhaka.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – For the first time in Bangladesh, a group of Christian and Muslims personalities will officially meet in dialogue toanswer a “Common Call”. The meeting, which is set to take place on 18 April, was born out of a mutual desire to deepen the message contained in the letter 138 Muslim intellectuals sent to Benedict XVI and world Christian authorities.

The conference, whose topic is “A Common Call: Muslims and Christians,” is being organised by the Department of World Religions of Dhaka University and the Episcopal Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue. It will take place in the capital with 35 Christians and 35 Muslims participating.

During the meeting the 70 participants will try to work out a common statement to publish as a result of the conference.

Fr Francesco Rapacioli, PIME missionary, is among the Christians attending the event. He has been involved in ecumenical dialogue for years and is calling for prayers so that “the meeting can take place without any problems and serve as an important moment in the dialogue between these two communities in Bangladesh”.

“Initially, the seminar was scheduled for 8 March but then the founder of the Department of World Religions, Dr Kazi Nurul Islam, had some health problems so that we had to postpone everything. In the end it was providential because this way there will be two meetings, a preparatory meeting for the Muslim group and one for the Christian group, and then a joint one at the end.”

Dr Kazi Nurul Islam is convinced of the importance of promoting peace between various religious communities through dialogue and mutual knowledge.

In a recent interview, he said that unfortunately the letter of the 138 did not find any great echo in Bangladeshi media; and the population, mostly poor and illiterate, is more concerned about its own survival.

According to Nurul, the path to change things lies in education. He said: “In Bangladesh, the education offered by some kinds of Islamic school is an authentic curse for the country. Every year, thousands of ignorant, dangerous, jobless youth, easily recruited by terrorist organizations, leading astray the common people with their unilateral interpretations of the Koran, graduate from such schools.” For him Islamic schools must teach “about other religions as well” from as early as the primary school level.

With a 150 million people, Bangladesh is the seventh most populated country in the world. Islam is the main religion representing 90 per cent of the population. Christians are a tiny minority of 3 per cent.

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