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Bangladesh’s interfaith harmony shines in Ramadan

  • Published at 10:23 pm May 12th, 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

The monastery has been involved in social welfare activities since it was set up in 1951

Every afternoon during Ramadan, women and children line up at the gate of Dharmarajika Buddhist Monastery in Dhaka’s Basabo. In a remarkable show of communal amity, in a world besieged by anti-communal ideals, the Buddhist monks at the monastery serve iftar to the fasting Muslims.

The initiative was introduced 10 years ago by the incumbent Lord Abbot, Sanghanayaka Suddhananda Mahathero, who decided the meals would make for an excellent token of communal harmony in the Islamic sacred month of Ramadan.

He told Dhaka Tribune: “I have been blessed by the love of the local Muslims. I believed that this is the least we could do to give them back the same love.”

The head monk said he hoped to see the same kindness, and interfaith harmony among different communities, everywhere in Bangladesh.

In previous years, the iftar meals were prepared by the monks at the monastery. But as they have scaled up distribution, food have to be ordered in.

In hard paper boxes, the meal includes the traditional iftar items of “beguni, piyazu, alur chop, muri, and boot.”

A resident monk at the monastery, Priyananda Sraman Hridoy, said they currently give out around 200 boxes of iftars every day, and hopes to double the quantity after the first 10 days of Ramadan.

The monk said, the monastery also provides dry foods like rice and vermicelli for free, before Eid.

Priyananda called the gesture an act of humanity, and an effort to unify people from all religions.

“We feel very content when we see that our initiative helps some people have iftar on time,” he said, smiling contently.

The monastery has been involved in social welfare activities since it was set up in 1951.

Sharmin Akter Shapna, in her late 30s, has been visiting the monastery for iftar since 2013. She relies on her 18-year-old son for her daily expenses, as she does not have a job. She said free meals help her to get through her daily chores, especially when she is fasting.   

She also said it does not matter to her where the meals are coming from.

“We are all human. And that is all that matters,” she said.