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Buddhists in Bangladesh safe despite atrocities against Rohingya Muslims

  • Published at 03:16 am July 24th, 2019
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File photo: A monk serves iftar to the fasting Muslims at Dharmarajika Buddhist Monastery in Dhaka Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Reflection of exemplary religious harmony in Bangladesh  

Bangladesh has yet again proven that people belonging to any religion are not harmed in a backlash to torture and oppression faced by Muslims and others in neigbouring countries.

The latest unfolding Rohingya crisis situation that began in late August 2017, makes this amply clear.

There were unprecedented atrocities committed against hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, of whom all but a very few are Muslims. Orchestrated by the Buddhist-led Myanmar security forces and local Buddhists, mobs in Rakhine forced the Rohingyas to cross into Cox’s Bazar for shelter.

Government officials, local people, and a senior official of the Bangladesh Buddhist Federation told Dhaka Tribune there are no reports of any attacks on Buddhists or their temples in Cox’s Bazar or anywhere else. This, despite the now well-founded allegations of genocide, ethnic cleansing, killing, rape, and burning in Rakhine.

The same is true in the case of Muslims being killed in India by Hindus on suspicion of eating beef, with no backlash of any kind against Hindus in Muslim majority Bangladesh, they said.

This very tolerance reflects nothing but the exemplary religious harmony that exists in the country, they added.

Buddhists and their temples in Cox’s Bazar, home to a significant number of  Buddha artefacts and statues, were well guarded by the district administration in support of their local minority religious communities. To make sure there were no untoward incidents following the recent Rohingya muslim exodus to Bangladesh, police personnel were assigned to safeguard the minority Buddhist community of Bangladesh and about 300 of their temples in the Cox’s Bazar area.

“No, there was not a single attack on any of our community or any temple in Cox’s Bazar. We received full protection from the people and the government,” said Bhikkhu Sunandatriya, general secretary of the Bangladesh Buddhist Federation.

“We don’t feel threatened,” he added. “We have been living in such harmony ever since I can remember.”

During a recent visit to Cox’s Bazar, this correspondent found local police to be vigilant in preventing possible violent situations.

When approached, Muslims said there is no reason to mistreat people who have nothing to do with the atrocities committed by Buddhists in Myanmar. 

“Yes, we are sorry for the Rohingyas Muslims for their sufferings in Rakhine. But we cannot hold responsible for that, the Buddhists who live among us, ” said Nasir Ahmed, a small business owner in Ukhiya, an upazila in Cox’s Bazar that hosts a large number of Rohingya refugees.

“Although we were confident about the tolerance of our people, we were careful so no attack took place against any Buddhists or their temples. We received cooperation from all segments of society in this regard,” said Abul Kalam, refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, the top government official in Cox’s Bazar to deal with the Rohingya crisis.

“We have kept some of our limited personnel to keep an eye on the temples. We had not anticipated any trouble, but we have remained cautious. Between people’s cooperation and our measures, there was not a single untoward incident,” said Cox’s Bazar Superintendent of Police, ABM Masud Hossain.

“Full credit goes to the entire community for maintaining harmony, put to the test. We were vigilant and will remain so in future.”