Bangladesh: Christian/Muslim Dialogue

The letter that 138 Muslims wrote to the Pope and all other Christian religious authorities has had many reactions. Even in Bangladesh Muslims and Christians are following a path of dialogue that will lead them to officially meet for the first time on 18 April for a conference entitled “A Common Call: Muslims and Christians”.

The event, which is being organised by the Department of World Religions of Dhaka University and the Episcopal Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue will take place in the capital with 35 Christians and 35 Muslims participating to discuss the letter by the 138 Muslims and try together to come up with a final statement to publish that will resume the results 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 an interview with Father Rapacioli, Nurul Islam said that unfortunately the letter of the 138 did not find 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 seventh most populated country in the world. Islam is the main religion representing 90 per cent of the total. Christians are a tiny minority of 3 per cent.

Source: Asia News