Published:  02:20 AM, 15 June 2024

Religious Festivals in Bangladesh Signify Interfaith Fraternity

Religious Festivals in Bangladesh Signify Interfaith Fraternity
There are public holidays on Eid Ul Fitr, Eid Ul Azha, Eid-E-Miladunnabi, Merry Christmas, Buddha Purnima, Durga Puja, Janmasthami etcetera in Bangladesh which is a reflection of interreligious harmony.

We should remain cautious about the anti-independence quarters who opposed the Liberation War of 1971. These evil entities are still playing their vicious tricks to divide the nation. Allegations show that the agents of the anti-liberation wings are hidden inside the government and working against the interest of Bangladesh.

Socio-economic justice and equity were the main watchwords with which the glorious Liberation War was fought. Keeping this in view we should keep away from generating discrimination in our country on religious or any other basis. We do not want any isolation to take place between the believers of different religions in our country. It opposes the ideals with which the Liberation War was fought and it contradicts with the ideology of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The unrestrained rise of communal groups has facilitated the expansion of militants and religious bigots across the country who are clear threats to domestic peace. Bangladesh has already suffered several attacks by extremist terrorists who have killed ordinary, innocent people in some parts of Bangladesh including foreigners. So, if the government cannot resist the communal organizations, then the bid to terminate militancy may also hit hurdles. Those who kill common citizens in the name of religion are the most terrible enemies of mankind. There were attacks on judges in August 2005. Holey Artisan Café was also assaulted by militants in July 2016. We sadly recall the assaults on Udichi artistes, 21st August grenade attacks, bombing on Pahela Baishakh celebration, cinema halls, courts and some more places which have taken place during the previous years.

Communal parties and fanatical groups often look for opportunities to destabilize Bangladesh taking advantage of religious misinterpretations. Religious minorities in our country have come under attacks by extremists and bigots several times. Fundamentalist organizations like Jamaat-E-Islami, Islami Chhatra Shibir, Hefazat-E-Islam and some other radical Islamic outfits hold a very antagonistic attitude towards the minorities around us. These religious bigots do not believe in manmade laws. They want Bangladesh to be administered by Shariah law. Bangladesh must carry on the core principles of Westminster Democracy.

In the past people belonging to religious minorities were subjected to violence and tribulations by miscreants during electoral periods. We remember with horror the grim assaults that religious minorities had to face following the election of 2001. Buddhist minorities were assailed and their temples and homes were vandalized by religious extremists a few years ago in Chittagong division including Cox’s Bazar. The severe clash between Hefazat activists and the law and order forces in Dhaka during May 2013 still haunts us.

The government should consider religious minorities as part of the nation’s mainstream in terms of education, healthcare, jobs and all other aspects. All the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, ethnic clans and indigenous tribes of Bangladesh are equal. Everybody deserves to be treated on equal terms. There is no space for disparities or inequity. The Holy Quran says, “La Kum Deen Ukum Wal Ya Deen” which means everyone has the right to practice their own religions. Religions are different but festivals are for everyone. Let this Eid lead us to redemption, peace, stability and mutual respect.
We should go back to the constitution of 1972 to establish a non-communal sentiment among Bangladesh’s people. The Inheritance law and Marriage Law need to be upgraded to meet the demands of the current era.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has recently ordered land management to be fully digitalized. If it is implemented, corruption in land offices will be comprehensively reduced. It is very unfortunate that this year schools and colleges were not allowed to bring out Mangal Shovajatra on Pahela Baishakh. We must protect and preserve our cultural heritage.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “He is a true Muslim from whose mouth and hands other people are safe”. Jesus Christ said, “Mercy, pity, peace and love are the most precious bounties from God.”

The present government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina firmly believes in the principles of humanity and upholds the spirit of the Liberation War. Therefore, we can hope the government will be successful in wiping out communal entities from Bangladesh and will eliminate all other forms of vices and violence to fortify peace and stability.

Democracy, transparency, good governance and development cannot be detached from each other. A country’s democratic process faces impediments if good governance cannot prevail smoothly. Besides, good governance cannot be constituted without accountability in all organizations belonging to government and private sectors. Everything in a democratic state is done for the betterment of people. An all-inclusive approach to socio-economic and political well-being of the nation is the only way to provide required services to the people and this is an indispensable prerequisite for prosperity. Sustaining a pro-people attitude is a very big obligation for ensuring equal rights for all citizens and for the establishment of social justice at all walks of life.

My dad was a government employee. As a result he used to get transferred to different parts of the country every two or three years. It seemed a little inconvenient but looking on the other side of the coin, it used to make us happy too because by getting transferred to various districts across Bangladesh we availed the unique opportunity to explore the beauty, features and special attractions of many regions of the country. At the same time by moving from one place to another it filled out our lives with a great deal of variety and that’s why this sort of packing up and moving never made us feel bad. In many places where we lived during my father’s professional life in uniform, we got to familiarize ourselves with a lot of people from several parts of Bangladesh. It was an immense pleasure to taste different kinds of food, to make new friends and to get on intimate terms with new neighbors. I particularly would like to recall that in many places we found Hindu, Buddhist and Christian neighbors but we never thought or felt that they are from different religions. My parents never believed in such divides. I have a huge volume of honey-coated memories with my Hindu, Buddhist and Christian friends and still I have profound and cordial relations with all of them. Some of them migrated to other countries a few years back but still I have contacts with them through social networks. Actually boyhood memories are the most valuable ones which people preserve throughout their lives. The same thing has happened in my case too.

When the festivities of Durga Puja began during my childhood it had a very interesting and attractive meaning to me. The advent of Durga Puja always enchanted me with the availability of sweetmeat made by our Hindu neighbors and the superb event of visiting temples to see the beautifully made sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses. I still marvel at the skills, professionalism and devotion of the artisans who make those idols look so lifelike. Durga Puja also comes with the exhilaration of interreligious brotherhood and it shows to the entire world the peerless bonds and amity Bangladeshi people have with each other irrespective of theological identities.

But as I grew up I gradually discovered some unpalatable things like religion-based political parties, radical outfits, religious extremism which I had never witnessed during my entire boyhood. It hurts me to see my country’s people putting up conflicts within themselves on the basis of religions which I regard as the most unfortunate phenomenon around us. Bangladesh became independent through the sacrifice of three million martyrs which includes patriots from all religious communities. Now we often come across reports in newspapers and on television channels that miscreants have assaulted religious minorities, smashed temples, burnt homes of people from other religions which can be no how justified in a civilized country. Playing political games using religions as instruments is the most heinous thing and it is the greatest threat to the prevalence of peace, progress and justice.

Durga Puja and all other religious festivals are part of Bangladesh’s longstanding heritage and cultural originality. These ceremonies enable all of us to renovate our secular sentiments and to hug our neighbors, colleagues, friends and classmates with an incomparable dimension of warmth which rises far above religious confinements. Fraudsters who try to isolate people from each other through religious gambits are the most hideous enemies to us. We must keep ourselves aware so that we never fall in their traps.

Recently a volatile situation is prevailing in Southeast Asia including Bangladesh due to the exodus of Rohingya people who have been moving into our country to escape ethnic cleansing in Rakhine province. The entire world has repeatedly called upon Myanmar government to withdraw its forces from Rakhine province to restore peace and stability in that region but unfortunately there has been no improvement with the pathetic circumstances so far. Bangladesh government has exhibited a glittering instance of humanity and generosity by accommodating enormous numbers of Rohingya refugees in several parts of Cox’s Bazar district. Pressure should be mounted on the Myanmar authorities to compel them to rehabilitate all the displaced Rohingyas taking them back into their own country. Rohingya issue is a threat to our domestic security as well because radical political wings may try to ignite communal tumult taking evil advantage of this plight. For this reason the law and order forces should keep sharp eyes on everybody for keeping all things in the right shape.

25th December is celebrated all over the world as the Birth Anniversary of Jesus Christ who was born on this day long ago to commemorate the munificence of this divine emissary whose only goal in life was to lead people to the way of light and to save them from the darkness evil forces cast upon us. Peace and nonviolence are two most significant dimensions of Jesus Christ’s character who even appealed to God for pardoning those who assassinated him by crucifixion. His last words were, “Forgive them God. They don’t know what they are doing”. In this way Jesus Christ established the norm that vengeance should be all the time avoided by mankind. It reminds us of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Today we can see bloodshed, turbulence, violence and injustice all over the globe because people have forgotten the message of Jesus Christ. Communal hatred and interreligious divides have generated horrendous conflicts within people of different theological beliefs. From this point of view, Merry Christmas comes with festivities for amusement and at the same time this blissful occasion comes back to us every year to rectify ourselves by giving up all violent things and to rebuild ourselves with the didactic angles of Jesus Christ’s lifespan.

Jesus Christ never showed antagonism to anyone. He even loved those who did not believe in his sermons. He never exercised his physical or divine power to persecute his dissidents. Unfortunately these precious qualities have nowadays totally disappeared. Crimes, retaliations, animosity, malice, jealousy and many more hideous attributes have engulfed the people of the entire world. Religious radicalism, theological misunderstandings, extremist ideologies and intolerant malpractices have disgraced the core values of our identity as human beings. Attacks are being carried out on innocent men, women and children in various parts of the world. Endless wars are going on heinously in different countries with grim threats to people’s lives and assets. Thousands of people are getting killed and wounded every now and then in bombings, gunshots and other forms of atrocities. Religious institutions like mosques, temples, pagodas and churches are being blown up by terrorists. A precarious shadow of uncertainty has enclosed us. Humanism has been cornered, jeopardized and marooned. Human rights are being violated frequently in many places. Deprived and tormented people are shedding tears silently with nobody caring about them. This is not the world Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for. Jesus Christ stood the highest form of self-dedication because he wanted to defend humanity in return for his own life. Only a prophet and heavenly envoy like Jesus Christ can give away his own life for the wellbeing of fellow humans and only a messianic, kindhearted figure like Christ can get himself crucified to seek forgiveness from God for liberating sinners from the burden of their transgressions. The true essence of life lies in the act of sacrifice, that’s the most memorable aspect to be procured from the life and works of Jesus Christ.

Christmas comes with a message of divine joy too. That’s why a highly pleasant and jovial ambience prevails around the world when the Christmas season arrives. People decorate their homes with colorful lights, Christmas trees, dolls and other beautiful things to enjoy and propagate the charm of Christmas. A wonderful spell of merriment boosts the spirit of everyone during Christmas and makes people forget the pains and sufferings they had undergone before. Another important thing about Christmas is that the New Year countdown also begins from 25th December. Right after celebrating Christmas, people look forward to the New Year with hope and confidence which are implanted in their minds through the blessings of Jesus Christ’s Birth Anniversary. In this way Christmas plays the role of a harbinger for New Year too and thus the happiness of the festive season increases deeply. Moreover, waiting for the dawn of Christmas begins from the evening of 24th December every year which is known as Christmas Eve.

Santa Claus is another prime attraction of Merry Christmas. Santa Claus is loved most by children and vice versa. He comes with lovely gifts, chocolates, sweetmeat and other things kids like most. The costumes of Santa Claus make him look more eye-catching with an affectionate and fun-loving grandfatherly appearance wearing red dresses and white beard. Santa Claus is adorably called by some more names like Papa Noel, Saint Nicholas, Grandfather Frost, Christmas Brownie and so on. According to popular beliefs cherished by most of the children around the world, Santa Claus visits kids while they are asleep and leave attractive gifts and candies at their households. Thus Christmas is a fabulous occasion for kids as well as people of all ages.

It would not be appropriate to say that Christmas is a festival only for Christians because millions of people of different countries from other religions also love to observe this auspicious day spontaneously with widespread jubilations and enthusiasm. At the end of the write-up, let’s hope for a world reinvigorated with the benign and compassionate message of Christmas Day. Let there be light, happiness and unity everywhere.

Md. Arafat Rahman is a columnist and an
official of Southeast University, Dhaka.

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