August 2011

 

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‘When People Are Killing Each Other in the Name of Faith, They Are Killing Their Brothers, Sisters and Innocent People’

Rachel Dyne


This is the first time I have attended an international workshop or even traveled abroad on my own with no one I had ever met and to a place I had little knowledge about. Before I left England, I was told by many people that traveling to Bangladesh would be a life-changing and eye-opening experience for me. After two weeks in Bangladesh, I can see that these are just words until you truly step out of your comfort zone and are willing to let yourself experience new things, learn new things and to listen to new people—only then will this experience START to become life-changing and my eyes will only begin to open. It takes more than experience to change a life; actions need to come out of these experiences.


Rachel Dyne, left, Biplob Rangsha, center, and Suborna Poli Drong,
 right, share the results of their group’s discussion during the
two-week Diversity in Dialogue workshop in July in Dhaka.

After listening to the country reports and dialoguing with all of you in person, as an English person, I can see how spoiled we have been as a nation. I have learned a lot about the troubles that the Asian countries have gone through, and are going through. England, and the English people, are lucky to have the State provide so much for them. There is so much that England can learn from your countries and from the concept of dialogue. Peace can be achieved, and no matter how busy and wrapped up in our own selfish lives we are, we should make time for each other. Despite all our differences and despite the rocky history England has with other countries, I have been made to feel at home and very welcome. You have become my friends and family in another continent.

I have developed a better understanding of many things, and to talk about all of it would take up many pages. One thing I now understand is justpeace. This was a concept that was completely new to me and now makes a lot of sense, learning that, before peace, there must be justice for people. For me, I always thought that I had an understanding of what justice, poverty and peace were. However, this session challenged me to demonstrate my understanding, and this was harder than it sounds. My understanding of the terms was not as clear as I thought they were and have now been better developed.

In short, I have found that the different approaches to justpeace very enlightening and have found the Islamic approach the most interesting. I feel this may be the case because I have less knowledge in this area, and therefore, what I was learning was new to me. For me, Iman Nafi was a well-educated man with a lot of knowledge to share. Despite the bad press that Islam receives in England, it is a very peaceful religion. The point made that, despite our differences, especially in faith, there are many things we share: we all come from the same Creator. When people are killing each other in the name of faith, they are killing their brothers, sisters and innocent people. Something that Shabeb said has stuck with me: “In faith [Islam], there is no moderate or radical—just faith. Those so-called radicals are just criminals!”

For me, identity has been something I have studied many times through my education at college and university. Despite this, I found the idea of our identity and comfort zone being linked very interesting. It was a new way for me to look at, and question, my identity. I now can see that I have prejudices that I am aware of but had not labeled them as these. I have found this quite difficult because I have always thought of myself as being very accepting of everybody and open minded. I now know that this is harder to do than it is to say.

Linked to the aspect of identity, I found the film My Name Is Khan incredibly powerful. As a society, we need to break and challenge stereotypes that people hold in order to uphold a peaceful society. England lives in peace for the majority of the time. This is because we have learned to be a tolerant society of the differences that are present within it. Tolerance is not enough though. Tolerance will lead to conflict, and historically, we have not used this as an opportunity for change or the opportunity to change for the better. We, as a country, need to move from tolerance to acceptance and engagement so that there is a lower threat of conflict.

The field trip to Madaripur was amazing. I don’t know how else to describe it. So much inspiring work is being done on a daily basis to try and improve the lives of the local people. Although there are challenges to their work, they do not give up; they keep trying. This gave me hope and inspiration. Sometimes it is so easy to give up trying but to have the motivation to carry on despite the problems and the challenges is a lesson everybody needs to learn—to keep in mind the reason the work is being done and hope that one day everybody will be able to live a dignified life where they are respected and accepted for who they are, where everyone at least lives a life where their basic human rights are not violated. Gono Unnayan Prochesta (GUP) has many projects addressing the needs of the local people and wider society. Take, for example, the tree plantation project. This project was set up in order to try and address environmental issues, such as rivers flooding onto roads. What has been developed is 250 kilometers of roadside that has had trees planted, and each one has been given to a local villager in order for them to have a source of food and income. Nassir and GUP showed me that it only takes a few people, a dream and motivation to try and transform a society. If you give the people and society time, it can be achieved.

This is the first time I have been taught about self and social transformation. It has been interesting to say the least. Self and social change is possible when people want it. Social transformation is happening; and although our world is not perfect, there is amazing work going on in Asia to try and achieve transformation. Although I am not transformed, I do believe that this program has started to change me. It is hard to judge to what extent until I get back to England. It is important that, as a community or larger society, we all share a common understanding of what peace, injustice and justice mean. This is one thing I have learned: we all have different understandings of what these terms mean. We must accept though that these mean different things to different people, but we need to ensure that we are “all drinking from the same stream.”

When looking at transformation, conflict always comes up. For me, this has always been a negative thing. I have seen little good come out of conflict; and from this, I assume that it is always a negative aspect of live. However, after the workshop, I have been able to look at transformation in a different way—an opportunity for change. I know now that in order to bring about social transformation we first need to transform ourselves to ensure that there can be dialogue between people in conflict. We need to get out of our comfort zones; we need to get out of the boat. For most, and I feel personally, this will be difficult, especially when I go back to the comfort zone of my home, my family and friends and my work. I just hope I can, and I will try.

When looking at the work that I do in England, I may not be able to change the whole country but maybe start some self-transformation in the young people I work with in order to start breaking down stereotypes, to get them to try to get out of their comfort zones. On a local level, some changes may be able to happen. I work in a peaceful community, but is it peaceful because the different groups of people do not engage with each other?

I have always had a love of learning; I have always strived on learning new things and have loved this experience. To think of life as our university and the people in it as our tutors was a new way of looking at life for me. I can learn so much more from people than I can a textbook!

Throughout this workshop, my mind goes back to the troubles in Northern Ireland. Can they be solved? They have gone on for generations. Is it possible for those that have lost loved ones to self-transform in order to bring about social transformation? I want to have hope. I have strong ties to Northern Ireland that I hope the people there will one day be able to live in peace. Your sharing has given me some hope. I have learned so much from the stories told here, that is, a country that has oppression can try. Then should it be so hard for the people of Northern Ireland? Is it possible to please everybody enough for them to accept, engage and dialogue with each other so that no one else is killed for the same old reason of religion and land?

I would like to end by thanking you all. I have learned more about the world in which I live in two weeks compared to my entire life. I would like to thank the YMCAs of Bangladesh for making us feel so very welcome. Your hospitality has been fantastic! I would like to also thank our tour guides that have so very kindly taken us to see a bit more of Bangladesh in the evenings. I would like to thank Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) and the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY) for inviting us English participants. I have always been taught that awesome means awe inspiring, and this has been an awesome trip! I have learned so much from you all, and I hope to see you again.