Hon’ble Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali MP
At the Opening Ceremony of the
“Fostering peaceful and inclusive communities in Bangladesh: The role of religious leaders and actors”
Hotel Amari, Dhaka
22-23 June 2018
Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General for the Prevention of Genocide
Ms. Mia Seppo, Resident Coordinator of the UN in Bangladesh
Distinguished guests, Participants, Ladies & gentlemen
Assalamu walaikum and a very good morning to you all.
I am extremely delighted to be present here today in the inauguration of the workshop on ‘fostering peaceful and inclusive communities in Bangladesh: role of religious leaders and actors’. I thank “Save and Serve” for organizing this workshop in Dhaka in partnership with the Office of the Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General for the Prevention of Genocide and the UNDP in Bangladesh.
In the current global scenario, religious intolerance and incitement to violence are unfortunately on the rise. Human societies are witnessing constant fragmentation based on people’s belief and ethnicity. Hate speech and policy of exclusion are making the lives of minorities’ difficult in many parts of the world.
In such a global frame, it is important to talk about inclusion, tolerance and co-existence. I am happy that this workshop has brought together a large and diverse group of agents who can play a very constructive role in building peaceful societies by preventing incitement of violence, extremism and intolerance.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Violence and inter-racial and inter-religious hatred are as old as the human civilization is. The modern civilization has come a long way having seen countless incidents of destructions and human sufferings caused by racial conflicts and hatred.
Since the terrorist attacks in the Twin Tower in 2001, the world has seen yet another unprecedented dimension of conflict induced by religious extremism and between different religious communities. Since then somehow the popular discourses have mostly projected religion as a cause of conflict. Names of religions have been stained by associating them with terrorism. Islam, which is a religion of peace, had been the worst target.
In the process, the other positive dimensions of religion have been severely downplayed and the potential peace-making roles of the religious leaders have been grossly subsided. There are many instances where the religious leaders and institutions played significant role in stopping conflict and preventing potential violence in the society, although the recognitions of such dimensions of religion are rare.
I am happy to see that the international community now recognizes the role of religious leaders in establishing peaceful communities and the UN is now guiding the national efforts to achieve those goals. I would like to thank Mr. Adama Dieng in particular for his devotion in fulfilling the mandate of his office and for playing a very proactive role in the prevention of mass atrocity crimes.
Bangladesh was born out of a heroic war fought by its mass people under the leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman against those who continuously undermined our racial and cultural identity. Pakistani rulers have tried to suppress our diversity, progressive ideology and century-old cultural heritage. We know better than anyone, the importance of tolerance and peaceful consistence in a society. Religious freedom lies in the root of our socio-political existance.
Guided by the principle of peace of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mijibur Rahman, his daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has continued to promote pluralism and religious tolerance in Bangladesh societies. The motto of our Government in promoting freedom of religion or belief is “each unto his or her religion, festivals are for all”. Bangladesh is one of few countries where Eid, Puja, Buddha Purnima and Christmas are celebrated with equal fervor and observed as national holidays.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Bangladesh too has seen; briefly though, rise of extremism in its society. Primarily motivated by some anti-liberation political elements, those acts of terror and targeted killings have only strengthened our resolve to eradicate fanaticism and religious intolerance from our society. After the terrorist attack in the Holey Artisan Bakery in 2016, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh has taken extensive counter and preventive measures against terrorism and violent extremism.
We have undertaken massive awareness programmes to encourage practice of tolerance, inclusiveness and cultural activism in the society involving women, youth and community leaders. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has particularly called the teachers andimmams to play lead role in preventing religious extremism. Recognizing the role of women in peace building we are currently in the process of developing national action plan on women, peace and security which will further consolidate women’s role in preventing violence and building peaceful communities. The digital Bangladesh campaign of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is specifically designed to engage youth in constructive activities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
People of Bangladesh typically use religious norms to guide their day-to-day action and as such religious leaders are highly respected and influential members of a community. Their unique positions of trust and respect enable them to provide feedback on any changes at the local level, and communicate local priorities to government officials and development professionals.
Recognizing their role, our government has have long been promoting the engagement of religious leaders and actors in preventing violence. We have welcomed the Fatwa of Peace for Humanity published by the Bangladesh Jamaiatul Ulama and endorsed by hundred thousand Islamic jurists, scholars and clerics, which preaches on the peaceful and non-violent nature of Islam. The Government has also taken an initiative to build 560 Mosque-based Islamic Cultural Centre in district and sub-district level to promote Islamic values of peace and tolerance among the mass people.
The workshop is a golden opportunity for the religious leaders and actors of Bangladesh to project their leadership roles to the new generation and encourage them to join the path of peace and harmony.
I believe the speakers in the next sessions will highlight the good practices and also identify areas where stronger engagement is needed.
I wish the workshop a success.
Jay Bangla, Jay Bangabandhu!
Mr. Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, MP
Mr. Md. Shahriar Alam, MP
Mr. Md. Shahidul Haque