12/27/2018, 16.32
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Parties 'rediscover' religious minorities ahead of coming elections

by Sumon Corraya

The election is set for next Sunday. The two main camps want to boost democracy, the balance of powers and fight corruption. Jesus “taught us love for [other] human beings.”

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – As Bangladesh’s general elections approach (30 December), political parties have focused on defending the rights of religious minorities in the predominantly Muslim country.

In recent days the main political camps have released their election manifesto. Both plan to set up a cabinet-level ministry to protect the rights of minority religious groups.

For her part, incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina celebrated Christmas with 1,500 Christians. Her party, the AWAMI League, issued an 84-page platform. It includes the creation of a national minority commission and the adoption of a special law for their security. The League also wants to institutionalise democratic processes, strengthen the National Human Rights Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission, as well as guarantee the right to study and work of ethnic minorities.

On this last point, the prime minister added that she is committed to the “needy among tribal people” and that her government “will preserve tribal cultures.”

The main opposition party, the Bangladesh National Party, has taken a similar line in its nine-page manifesto. The latter includes a balance of power between the president and prime minister, the appointment of a deputy parliamentary speaker from the ranks of the opposition, the granting of work permits to foreign workers, and an end to money laundering through changes to the tax laws.

Hasina showed her support for minorities by hosting a group of Christians at her residence on Christmas Eve. On that occasion, the prime minister said that everyone is entitled to their beliefs in Bangladesh.

“An excellent environment now exists in Bangladesh to practise one’s religion,” she said. At the same time, “We can all honour the religion of others”.

Jesus Christ always worked for humanity, she added. “He taught us love for [other] human beings and for their welfare.” What is more, “We want everyone to live in peace in Bangladesh, where there is no place for militancy, terrorism and narcotics. . . . We want Bangladesh to be a peaceful country”.

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