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In the holy month of Ramadan, Buddhist monks serve Iftar for Muslims in Bangladesh

The initiator of the project, Suddhananda Mahathero and the high priest of the temple believes in humanity being the ultimate goal of humans

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Representational Image, Monastery. Image source: www.aljazeera.com
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  • Buddhist monks prepare iftar meals at the main shrine of Dharmarajika monastery for all Ramadan observers
  • This project began 6 years ago and witnesses a herd of underprivileged people coming to the monastery to receive free iftar meals
  • Social welfare activities are conducted in the monastery, which was established in 1951 in Basabo area of Dhaka

DHAKA, BANGLADESH: “Live your life like everyday is Ramadan and the Akhirah (afterlife) will become your Eid.” The Buddhist monks in Dhaka seem to follow the above quote with their heart and soul. Their actions during the days of Ramadan- holiest season in the life of a devout Muslim all round the world wherein they engage in praying, fasting and believe in giving to charity – is an example of the monasteries attempt to work towards attaining harmony in the society.

Everyday during this month the Buddhist monks prepare iftar meals at the main shrine of Dharmarajika monastery for all Ramadan observers. In the light of the fatal attacks against minorities, which are a common sight in Bangladesh, the Buddhist monasteries initiative rebuilds the faith in the hearts of Muslim devotees to look at a peaceful future ahead.

Photo by: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera. Image Source: www.aljazeera.com
Photo by: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera. Image Source: www.aljazeera.com

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This project began six years ago and witnesses a herd of underprivileged people coming to the monastery to receive free iftar meals. The initiator of the project, Suddhananda Mahathero and the high priest of the temple believes in humanity being the ultimate goal of humans. Despite the constant unrest amongst the people and the recent violent attacks in South Asia, the monks of Dharmarajika say they are not worried about their safety and have a very good relation with the Muslim community.

With the aim of attaining Inter-religious harmony, social welfare activities are conducted in the monastery, which was established in 1951 in Basabo area of Dhaka. Their typical iftar box contains potato chops, peyaju (onion tempura), beguni (eggplant tempura), chhola-boot (lentils), khejur (dates), muri (puffed rice), and jilapi (a sweet made of sugar syrup).

Sujan and Krishnapad Das helped Buddhist monks to prepare Iftar meals. Image source: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera
Sujan and Krishnapad Das helped Buddhist monks to prepare Iftar meals. Image source: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Sakhina, an underprivileged member of the Muslim community says that the free food at the monastery is a godsend gift. “Here, we are granted respect that we were supposed to get from our co-religists,” she told Al Jazeera. Like her there are 300 poor people served daily in a nation of 160 million, a nation in which Buddhists are less than one percent of Bangladeshi population whereas 90 percent of the population comprises of Muslims. In a nation with the given demographic Ramadan is the best opportunity to help poor Muslims.

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The monastery itself is home to more than 700 orphans. These orphans are imparted free education at the school located in the monastery premises. The iftar distribution programme starts at 5:30pm local time everyday but the people start making queues from 3pm onwards. With women and men standing in different queues to receive the packets there are long lines outside the temple everyday.

-This report is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    Its really commendable. Every religion believes in humanity and they are promoting it.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Good to hear that the religious gaps are being filled!

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Rohingya Muslims Remain Fearful Due To Forceful Repatriation

Another man who was informed he was on the list told VOA he witnessed troops killing people from his village

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Rohingya
Rohingya refugee women wait outside of a medical center at Jamtoli camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

Rohingya Muslims who fled a brutal military campaign in Myanmar last year are living in fear after being told they are on a list of over 2,200 people due to be forcibly returned to the country this month.

Some have said they are considering taking their own lives to avoid being sent back to Rakhine state, where Myanmar’s military is accused of waging a genocidal campaign of mass murder and rape.

“If we go back, they can kill us, they can torture us. We have already lost everything once,” said one man from the Jamtoli camp, speaking on the condition of anonymity, who was told by camp officials he is on the list along with his family.

Bangladesh and Myanmar last month struck a deal to begin returning Rohingya refugees by “mid-November”. The 2,200 names were picked from a list of 8,000 that Bangladesh gave to Myanmar in February.

Bangladesh’s refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner, Abul Kalam, has told Human Rights Watch the Rohingya on the list “were not chosen because they particularly wanted to go back.”

More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh since August last year from what UN investigators say is genocide. Myanmar has consistently denied the charge and says the campaign was a legitimate response to what it called terrorist attacks.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee,has called on both countries to scrap the plan to return people this month, warning Rohingya face a “high risk of persecution” if returned.

Rohingya
Rohingya refugees walk under rain clouds on June 26, 2018, in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

The plan may also “violate obligations under customary international law to uphold the principle of non-refoulement,” she added.

“Bangladesh should not be sending anyone at this time,” Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist, told VOA. “Forcing survivors and refugees back to the killing fields where genocide is still going on is complicity in genocide.”

A humanitarian who works closely with the Rohingya community in Bangladesh said that, although Rohingya at Jamtoli had been told they are on the list, names had not yet been officially confirmed. Until the UN’s refugee agency receives an official list from the Bangladeshi government, “we’re not entirely sure,” who is due to be returned, they said.

They added that they were aware of one man who had attempted suicide after hearing he was on the list: “The issue is that the lack of clarity and communication alone is already causing harm regardless of whether repatriation actually starts.”

Rohingya, India
Some Rohingya children and a woman at an unidentified refugee colony in West Bengal, eastern India. VOA

Rohingya who believe they are on the list told VOA that a block leader in their camp said they would be moved to another location inside Bangladesh on November 12 in preparation for their return.

Myanmar has this year built “reception centers” and “transit camps” to house and process the expected returnees.

The facilities are surrounded by barbed wire and security posts, and advocates fear the camps could become permanent homes for returning Rohingya. “They are like concentration camps,” said Nay San Lwin.

Myanmar government spokesperson Zaw Htay told VOA he could not comment for this story.

Rohingya, India
Some Rohingya women and children in an unidentified refugee colony in West Bengal, eastern India. VOA

The Rohingya man from the Jamtoli camp in Bangladesh, who was told his family was on the list last week, said his mother recently fainted from the stress.

As he was fleeing Rakhine state in September last year he saw his nephew and son-in-law shot dead, he said.

“Other families who are being sent back are crying loudly, all day and night,” he told VOA. “One family on the list have lost their parents. They’re crying, they have no one to look after them.”

One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Another man who was informed he was on the list told VOA he witnessed troops killing people from his village as he fled Rakhine state at the end of August last year. “They were killing everyone, small children, the elderly, everyone,” he said.

Also Read: Should Promote Human Rights More in Myanmar: Facebook

Earlier this week two block leaders – Rohingya volunteers who help refugees communicate with officials – approached him with a form and asked how many family members he has, and for a picture of the head of the family.

He refused, he said, and an argument ensued. “We will never agree to go,” he told them. “If they make us go we will take our own lives here, this is our final decision.” (VOA)