Sometimes unimportant news comes in newspaper, but the news or culture can play a significant role in the foundation of a multinational society. Distribution of iftar by some social Hindu organisations, and the responsibility of organising the marriage of Hindu girls by Muslims and many other small stories make our place one of encouragement or hope.
All the above initiatives were taken by individuals. But the issues of this social harmony are very difficult to maintain only from the individual. Institutional system of interfaith dialogues is very weak in Bangladesh. In a multinational society, it is not unusual to have misunderstandings in these situations including religion and politics. However, after the problem arose, the state’s constitutional capacity was determined on how quickly the state and society were in a logical solution. In social science, there’s a term ‘Reset and Balance’ policy. We are comparatively greatly outdated in this matter.
I do not know whether the local or national ‘interfaith group’ has been resolved in Brahmanbaria or Ramu schematic incident. But if there is an understanding between religious leaders locally, many issues can be solved before the administration has to intervene. Indonesia has a multinational social structure. In some provinces, Christian dominance exists. Sometimes religious or ethnic problems are created at these places. But their interfaith dialogue / community is so strong that before the government, they can solve their problems or try to do so.
One of my Indonesian friends, Chong Hosni Mubarak, worked in an NGO called ‘Pusad. They published a book titled ‘Freedom, tolerance and terrorism: Research and policy on religion in Indonesia‘, which has been discussed in different ways, in order to protect religious harmony and independence. I discussed with him that this ‘interfaith’ community has been established in every province and district and even in Mahalla and thousands of NGOs have been formed based on these works. The states are also getting benefits. Now religion has increased in size and inter-religion sympathetically potential than ever before.
But is there any institution for supervision of interfaith harmony in our country? In Thailand I saw this ‘interfaith’ community. Due to the Muslim revolt in South Thailand, its influence does not fall much in other provinces. Some time ago, there was an opportunity to visit the United States as an IVLP. The purpose of our visit was to see religious education, interfaith dialogue and communal harmony in the United States. We have witnessed various schools, colleges and universities run by public and private Catholic, Hindu and Muslim organisations in different states. There was a chance to see the process of student development in every school and the method of teaching about religion. There is a chance to sit with the ‘interfaith’ community. We were amazed to see their inter-religious management. We visited ‘Hindu Centre Sherlet’ in North Carolina. The original Puja Mandapa is being made from marble from India. The director Nimesh Bhat pulled several examples of interfaith harmony, saying that food for Syrian Refugees’ is often sent from this centre. He also said that their followers are sent to religious places of different ethnicities, for observation of everything. He became emotional and said that the Karim uncle of Gujarat, who used to send me Laddu (a kind of Indian food) for a long time in my back home, can be distinguished by religion? But in India or in this country, do we always remember the ties of this harmony?
Religious tension spreads only if there was an issue. We need to get out of this. But how? There was an easy answer, how many Imams, Priests, Guru, Bishop, Monks of their own areas in our subcontinent known each other? Or do they maintain contact with each other? I do no think so. To protect the harmony in religion, teachers (religious), Guru’s should improve their relations. That’s what we did in the Charlotte‘. The Imam of the big mosque here is one of my friends. During the Eid, we arranged Eid prayers at our Hindu Centre. Muslims of many countries attended there. There is no shortage of relation between us. Imam Atif Chowdhury of the Islamic Society of Greater Charlotte also spoke about Nimesh Vaat. The director of the ‘Hekney Centre of Interfaith‘ of Nazareth College, Rochester, nearby aesthetic city of Niagara Fall arranged an interfaith dialogue in his centre. The Islamic Centre’s chairman Mumin said in his discussion that during the election, a hardened Christian group wanted permission from the administration to perform anti-Muslim human chain outside the Islamic Centre, and to do so, they gathered from different states to the hotel. After knowing this, the chief of the Catholic Church, Rabay, and Hindus associated with the interfaith community have been able to convince the administration that this human chain will not bring good to the society. The administration did not give them permission and returned them to their respective state.
There are many other such examples, which play a special role in ties with society. If we see our face in the context of our country, then we have to be behind it. Every religious organisation in America is associated with dialogue communities. The state also encourages it. Our economic development is of course necessary. At the same time, social disparities and places of religious conflicts also need solutions based on mutual respect. Then economic development will accelerate and the handful of social life will satisfy our present and future generation.
Interfaith Dialogue in Rochester, New York
The writer is a Professor, Islamic University, Kushtia