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Leaders of different religious communities yesterday called upon the countrymen to reject violence in the name of religion and work to establish peace by upholding harmony.

No religion allows violence, they said at the inauguration of the Bangladesh Inter-Religious Forum for Peace and Harmony (BIRFPH) at the Krishibid Institution Bangladesh in the capital.

BIRFPH Coordinator Syed Tayabul Bashar said their main objective was to establish peace and protect those who might fall victim to rumours and religious hatred.

There are vested interests who do not want to see the current progress in Bangladesh and are involved in destructive activities to tarnish the country’s image abroad, they added.

Save and Serve Foundation, a non-government, non-profit that aims to promote religious tolerance, will act as the forum’s secretariat, according to the organisers.

At the programme, eminent Islamic scholar Maulana Farid Uddin Masud said Islam as a religion considers love as its “core value.”

“Only love and affection can solve problems, not hatred,” he said. “Not only as a Muslim, but as a human being, I urge all to learn how to respect each other and be affectionate towards others.”

A disturbing trend to demean others has emerged all over the world, he said, adding against such a backdrop, launching a forum to work for religious harmony was a timely step.

“Goodness and love must prevail if we are to bring change to the society.”

Addressing the event as the chief guest, Prime Minister’s International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi said it was the responsibility of the country’s majority community to protect the minorities.

He urged all to work under a common umbrella and address common problems together.

Those involved in crimes and unlawful activities want to take the country backwards, he said.

Bishop Paul Sishir Sarker, former moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, said an individual “enlightened by the message of religion” could bring peace, while one who misunderstood religion could cause destruction.

He said the message people got from religion was important and stressed the need for conveying messages of inter-religious harmony to people of all ages.

The message of religion is to know one’s “self” and to not create “communes”, said Jinabodhi Bhikku, former general secretary of Bangladesh Bouddha Bhikku Mahasangha.

Lauding the forum’s initiative, he said its members had to work from the grassroots level to reach people who were being misled and misguided, and to help them understand the “true message of religion.”

“There is no alternative to harmony if we are to save Bangladesh,” he added.

Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parishad, said a vested quarter was involved in misinterpreting religion and creating divisions among people.

The countrymen have to stand against those who want to demean religions, he said, adding that only then the country’s development would be sustainable and meaningful.

He demanded that the governing party, as per its election pledge, formulate a law to protect the country’s religious minorities and form a separate commission to this end.

Condemning recent mayhem over religious hatred in Bhola, Bangladesh Tarikat Federation Chairman and lawmaker Syed Nazibul Bashar Maizvandary said the government must identify the culprits and ensure their punishment.

Brac University Associate Professor Samia Huq and BIRFPH Co-coordinator Nirmol Rozario, among others, spoke at the event.



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