Sanat Kumar Barua
Atisha Interfaith Council Bangladesh (a project of the Atisha Dipankar Peace Trust Bangladesh) is launching a project in Bangladesh on capacity building and leadership development in Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), The Interfaith Council is technically and financially supported by the EU funded SEA-AIR project Southeast Asia: Advancing Inter-Religious Dialogue and Freedom of Religion or Belief with implementing partners Finn Church Aid/the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation (International Network of Engaged Buddhists-INEB), World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD), Islamic Relief Worldwide and Religions for Peace (RFP).
The Atisha Interfaith Council Bangladesh (AIFC Bangladesh) is a collective faith-based initiative to build and equip multi-religious actions for advancing inter-religious dialogue and communication, from a peacebuilding platform based on nonviolent principles. AIFC embraces and supports different religious groups, and faith practitioners to uplift positive initiatives for the common good locally in Bangladesh, with a regional and global impact that can benefit many people. It also focuses on uplifting religious actors’ roles to prevent negative impacts from polarization, religious nationalism, armed conflicts, and more. The initiative upholds norms that safeguard humanity, leave no one behind in terms of religious identity or beliefs, yet generates love and compassion.
The Interfaith Council launched a number of programs on interfaith sustainable leadership development training, intra-faith and inter-faith dialogue, and interfaith solidarity visits under the initiative. In November 2020, the AIFC Bangladesh hosted Interfaith Leadership Training for fifty multi-religious and civil society actors from Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian communities. The day-long training program was held at Caritas, Bangladesh, Chattogram Center presided by the project holders. The Atisha Dipankar Peace Trust Bangladesh chairman Tushar Kanti Barua highlighted the importance of the training program by the Interfaith Council, which may the first organized Interfaith Leadership Training program in the Chittagong division with 12 lessons on various issues to connect the actors with Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), peacebuilding and development policies. The training session was inaugurated by the national ‘Ekushy Padak’ awardee Dr. Bikiran Prasad Barua. The training modules are designed for the multi-religious actors, peace activities, youth and women including minorities and persons from ethnic backgrounds for capacity building and leadership development.
The Council Core member and SEA-AIR Interfaith Fellow Professor Mr. Masum Ahmed was the lead facilitator with other council members also facilitating. The workshop topics focused on strengthening understanding and inter-faith relationships through dialogue and peacebuilding through nonviolent means, the significance of communication, inclusiveness and other topics related to living in harmony with the environment. The training sessions were equipped with multi-faith initiatives for developing sustainable interfaith leadership in Bangladesh. The workshop supported an interactive learning experience for participants in an open friendly and stimulating environment where they learned new concepts on FoRB issues, peacebuilding, development policies, inclusion with climate justice that will enable them to build sustainable inter-faith communities for ensuring peaceful and harmonious coexistence.The Atisha Interfaith Council Bangladesh welcomes support for developing an institutional shape to continue its current and future activities. The AIC believes it will bring positive contributions on religious majority-minority dynamics in contemporary South Asian countries and (re) build trust among inter and intra religious groups and inter-faith leadership development for a sustainable peace which supports prosperity and harmony for Bangladesh, as well as benefits all of humanity.