Bangladesh Tariqat Federation held an inter-religious dialogue to foster unity, peace and harmony at Lakeshore hotel in Gulshan, Dhaka, last week.
Bishop Sourav Pholia, Assistant Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh (Anglican) and Bishop of the Diocese of Barishal, said, "I am saddened that, as we sit here together as different religious leaders, we speak of harmony and unity; but when we deliver speeches in our worship places, some of us give speeches that stir up intolerance. This way, we do not follow the teachings of God. This should not happen."
The program was organized by Alhaj Syed Nazibul Bashar Maizvandary MP, Chairman of the "Bangladesh Tariqat Federation" (BTF), a Sufi-inspired political organization. It was attended by 250 leaders from the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian communities.
"In Bangladesh, some religious leaders deliver hate speech or disseminate such content on social media and so many young people attack minorities of other faiths," said Bishop Pholia.
The program aimed to build peace and harmony among all the religions in Bangladesh with the theme "Interfaith Unity for Peace and Harmony."
Bishop Pholia said that religious leaders have the task of teaching their own faith but also of leading the faithful to respect people of other faiths.
Recently in Bangladesh, social media reported an episode of interfaith violence between Hindus and Muslims. The alleged blasphemy went viral, and a mob of Muslims attacked the small Hindu community of Camila while celebrating Durga Puja, a major Hindu religious festival.
The incident left at least seven dead, including two Hindus, and the resulting tension and chaos swept through several towns in Bangladesh. Muslim Iqbal Hossain was later arrested and admitted to orchestrating the incident. He is now awaiting trial.
Nowadays, so many incidents are happening in our country, creating a challenging scenario to stay in peace with one another.
Nirmal Rozario, acting president of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian Unity Parishad (Assembly), urged religious leaders to maintain peace and harmony between religions.
"At this moment, inter-religious dialogue is very important for the country and all over the world to maintain peace and harmony. So, let us all the leaders of different faith think of peace and unity of the country," Rozario said.
The religious leaders of different faiths acknowledged that this country became independent with a non-communal consciousness. But few people in the country want to destabilize the country by displaying communal power. It is possible to build a Bangladesh of harmony if people of all religions are together.
A common theme that came up was to respect and "not say anything disrespectful about other religions."
The religious leaders agreed that it is impossible to establish harmony one day by talking about unity only during inter-religious dialogue and other times by speaking against other religions.
Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country, and religious minorities are sometimes victims of violence.
According to "Ain o Salish Kendra" (ASK), a Bangladeshi human rights organization that documents attacks on minority religious communities, more than 3,600 attacks against Hindus have occurred in Bangladesh since 2013.
The study found that attacks on Hindus over eight years included cases of vandalism and arson of 550 homes and 440 shops and businesses. During the same period, more than 1,670 acts of vandalism and arson of Hindu temples, idols and places of worship were also reported.