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Momen connects intolerance to violence, terrorism

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said sustainable peace among nations can be achieved if respect and tolerance towards others, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, color and race, can be inculcated.

“Let us work together to achieve such a goal. In fact, for ensuring prosperity in the region, we need peaceful coexistence of all nations and all countries,” he said while speaking as the chief guest at a seminar titled “Buddhism & Buddhist Circuit Development between Bangladesh & India” held in Dhaka’s Sabujbagh.

PM’s Special Envoy on Environment and Climate Change Saber Hossain Chowdhury and President of Bangladesh Bouddho Krishti Prachar Sangha, Buddhapriya Mahathero, among others, spoke on the occasion.

Momen said the Buddhist organization can play a vital role in this regard and the teachings of Lord Buddha could be an invaluable basis for a peaceful society and region.

The foreign minister said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman always believed that peace is imperative for development.

Following Bangabandhu’s philosophy, he said, Bangladesh became an ardent advocate for global peace. “His able daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is also working tirelessly for peace and prosperity for all. She promoted an UN resolution titled Culture of Peace.”

All violence, terrorism and war emanates from a mindset of intolerance, disrespect towards others, he said.

In Bangladesh, Momen said, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians – people from all religions – exhibit love, empathy, mutual respect, and support for each other.
Their deep attachment to the country is evident, as they collectively fought during the Liberation War in 1971 and achieved independence, he said.

In Bangladesh, Momen said, people from all religions are peacefully living and promoting their culture and heritage, and all religions are equally treated in Bangladesh. “We don’t discriminate.”

Buddhism is the world’s fourth largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population.

Buddhism holds a variety of traditions, beliefs, and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and his philosophies. There are about 1 million Buddhists living in Bangladesh.

They form about 0.6% of the total population of Bangladesh. Over 65% of the Buddhist population is concentrated in the Chattogram Hill Tracts region.

Momen said Buddhism has deep-rooted heritage and a significant cultural circuit in the South Asian region, and South Asia is recognized as the heartland of Buddhism.

“I strongly believe in Buddhist Circuit Development between the Buddhists of Bangladesh and India which may deepen the people to people contact and bond between the two countries,” he said.

Momen underscored five specific proposals for further engagement in this area. “We need to use Buddhism and its heritage as a tool of ‘bonding friendship’ among the countries.”

To this effect, he said, conservation, development and promotion of these heritages remain crucial. “This is crucial not only for the spiritual followers but also for those interested in exploring the rich history and cultural diversity of the South Asian region.”

“While we may continue to work bilaterally, we also need to follow a regional-level approach within South Asia and expand it to Southeeast Asia to unleash the potential of the region’s Buddhist heritage for inclusive development,” Momen said.

He said they need to strengthen activities within the regional organizations like SAARC and BIMSTEC to explore ways and means to conserve and promote the cultural diversity in the region, especially promoting Buddhist circuit.

“We need to foster a united effort in order to ensure sustainable tourism development to complement the overall sustainable development of the region,” Momen said.

He proposed organizing regular regional forums and conferences on cultural heritage and tourism development in South Asia to share experiences, best practices, and challenges related to preserving and promoting Buddhist heritage. “Think-tank and various religious organizations can play their due role.