August 2011


Doctrine divides, Action unites

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‘We Should Respect Each Other’s Faith because We Are Human Beings and Are Created by One God’

Bappu Mree

I would like to thank the National Council of YMCAs of Bangladesh (NCYB) and Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) for giving me a chance to join this program, especially thanks to the ICF staff—Max and Bruce—and Jose from the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY) in Hong Kong. This is my first international program so it was really a great opportunity for me. Before joining this program, I was so curious because it’s my first workshop on this topic and with people from different countries, faiths, cultures, backgrounds—it was really a beautiful diversity! In this program, I shared my personal thoughts and feelings and the views of my organization with my new friends. I hope this program will be helpful to me and my organization. Everyone was really friendly and helpful.

Bappu Mree, right, shares his views during the two-week
Diversity in Dialogue workshop in July in Dhaka.

I gained so many things from this School of Peace (SOP) workshop. I’m working in the Edilpur YMCA of Bangladesh. Thus, this program was very significant and meaningful for me. We have so many workshops, trainings, seminars, etc., but Dialogue in Diversity is different and new for me.

I am from the Garo ethnic community and live in a village. We are a very few number of people. Many of us are Christians. The majority of people in Bangladesh are Muslims. We do not have a good relationship with each other. We have the wrong concept about each other’s faith. Church leaders are not open minded. Some conservative religious people hate each other. I think church leaders lead people the wrong way.

Our Garo people live in the forest area. We face so many problems and challenges. The land issue is one of them. We have no ownership of our land on which we have been living for more than 1,000 years. The government decided to build a so-called eco-park in our area, but where will we go? It’s our land: the land is our mother, our life. The government notified people to leave this area. We are protesting against this eco-park. Because of this issue, already some Garo leaders have been killed by the police, forest guards and terrorists, but there is no reaction from the police or government. The majority people like to dominate the minority people so there is a conflict in my area. We want our rights, justice. After this program, now I think differently. Conflict never can give a solution. This program changed my mind. I’ve learned that “cooperation is better than conflict.”

I think it’s possible for transformation but not possible in the short term. I need to engage more with people, to do more advocacy and networking.

Before this program, I was in my comfort zone, but I should come out of my comfort zone. Otherwise, it’s not possible to make a peaceful situation in our community.

Sometimes religious people are misguided by church leaders and a wrong analysis. People think their religion is best. They make mistakes, but we forget our identity. Who am I? What’s my identity? We should respect each other’s faith because we are human beings and are created by one God. We seek the same goals. Before we can change society, there needs to be change of oneself. We should do it honestly and sincerely. I think we need more practice in dialogue.

When I go back to my work, I will try to do something. Building up interfaith cooperation and relationships are more essential in my community; it’s more important to dialogue. It will be a long process.

This has been a long journey on the “SOP bus.” I need some suggestions and technical support. How can I start?