Everybody in the world is in the crisis and needs to be responding to the situation together, Dr Francis says
Global and local experts have shared their views that protecting diversity and pluralism along with practice of tolerance have become more important than ever in the Covid-19 pandemic, as the virus does not respect religious and cultural boundaries.
Therefore, they said, reaching out to each other regardless of religious, cultural, ethnic, and gender identity should be the tool to fight the pandemic.
The discussants were speaking at a webinar titled "The role of Education in Promoting Diversity, Tolerance and Pluralism," organized by Center for Enterprise and Society of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), in partnership with Chatham House, a leading international think tank based in London, UK, and Impact and Policy Research Institute (IPRI), India on Saturday.
Dr Francis X Clooney, SJ, professor of Harvard Divinity School, said the pandemic is not respectful of religious boundaries, and therefore, no religious groups should be blamed for the virus spread.
"Covid-19 is not a respecter of you. You are not a chosen one to be immune from the virus," Dr Francis said, adding that everybody in the world is in the crisis and needs to be responding to the situation together.
"The pandemic has shown that caring for your own community is not enough. Covid-19 is a dark cloud with a silver lining. It taught us to reach out to each other," he said.
Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of International Relations at Dhaka University, said although South Asian countries are doing reasonably better than many developed nations, politics of singularity would not do any good in this crisis.
"We should take lessons from Cuba or Vietnam. These countries are doing very well tackling the virus. On the other hand, many political leaders who are promoting political ideologies like their parties or nations are the greatest, are struggling with the Covid-19," he said.
Promoting tolerance, diversity, and pluralism have become more important than ever in this pandemic, he added.
Dr Samia Huq, associate professor of Anthropology at Brac University, said "religious textbooks should be about religion, but not for religion.
"It does not mean education should be against religion," she said while stressing the importance of education to foster religious tolerance among students.
Dr Agustín Fuentes, professor of Anthropology at Princeton University, said the Covid-19 does not differentiate between humans on the basis of their race, culture, and religion.
Its impact, however, is different on people from different cultures and nationality, he said.
Sajid Amit, director of Center for Enterprise and Society and director of EMBA Program at ULAB, said dialogue on diversity, tolerance, and religious harmony has become more important now because the pandemic tends to hit hard the minority groups -- religious, ethnic, political, and sexual.
Dr Tariq Modood, professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol, said tolerance means accepting other people despite having different cultures and views.
"Tolerance has its limitations too. Sometimes people put up with things they do not approve of," he said, adding that often discrimination, sexism, and homophobia coexist with tolerance.