International Interfaith Workshop in Bangladesh

International Interfaith Workshop in Bangladesh

Transforming Communities One Person at a Time.






Interfaith Workshop in Bangladesh Affirms Diversity


Transforming Communities One Person at a Time


Twenty-four participants from
seven countries gathered at the YMCA Training Center in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from
July 9 to 24, 2011, for the interfaith workshop Dialogue in Diversity hosted by
the National Council of YMCAs of Bangladesh and conducted by Interfaith
Cooperation Forum, a joint program of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs
(APAY) in Hong Kong and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in Chiang Mai,
Thailand. The participants included Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians
from Cambodia, India, Laos, Pakistan and Thailand as well as Bangladesh. For
the first time, an ICF program also included people from outside of Asia as seven
participants from the YMCA in England took part as increasingly people of
different faiths are finding themselves living in the same community, such as
in Bradford.

With the world increasingly being
divided by one’s religious identity, the impetus of the workshop was to discuss
in more depth the perspective of different faiths on justice and peace and the
other values that different faiths share that form a common standing point from
which people of different faiths can cooperate to work on the pressing issues
that affect their communities today, such as issues related to poverty, human
rights violations, gender discrimination, environmental degradation and
multiple forms of violence. Consequently, the views of Islam, Christianity and
the spirituality of indigenous people on justice and peace were presented. It
was emphasized though that peace cannot exist without justice first being

Based on this rationale and
purpose, the participants shared the context and experiences of their country
in Asia and Europe and examined the various identities that people have, such
as gender, age, race or ethnicity, nationality and religion, and the ways in
which people of different identities interact with one another through
attitudes of either tolerance, acceptance or engagement and communicate with
each other through debate or dialogue. It was noted that stereotypes,
prejudices and labels often define people’s perceptions of those who are
different from them. The participants learned though that engaging with those
who are different through dialogue holds the greatest potential for diverse
peoples to live and work together peacefully. It was highlighted, however, that
everyone shares one common identity: everyone is a human being.

The workshop further discussed
conflict, noting that people often seek to avoid conflict but that conflict is,
in fact, a part of everyone’s life. What is important is how a person or
community responds to conflict. If the reaction to resolve conflict is violent,
then naturally suffering will be the outcome, and the root cause of the
conflict will unlikely be addressed, However, if conflict is viewed as an
opportunity for change and transformation, then conflict can produce a positive
result with the people involved creating a new relationship.

This conclusion then moved the participants to the
last theme of the workshop on transformation—transformation
of oneself and ultimately the social transformation of their community and
society when they return home. Naturally, this process is long and difficult,
but not impossible. The promotion and protection of human rights was offered as
one tool to achieve the equality and respect for human dignity that is
necessary if this goal is to be realized.