ASIA/BANGLADESH - Bangladesh minority groups demand reading of scriptures at start of parliament session

Saturday, 13 February 2021 religious minorities   religious freedom   faith   politics   society  

Dhaka (Agenzia Fides) – The organisations for the minority religious groups of Bangladesh have demanded reading of scriptures of all the four major religions of Bangladesh at the beginning of parliament sessions and state ceremonies.The demand was made by the prominent minority group "Bangladesh Hindu Budhhist Christian Unity Council" (BHBCUC), an interreligious council that brings together leaders of religious minority communities in Bangladesh, in a country with a large Muslim majority.
As Fides learns, Hindu leader Rana Dasgupta, Secretary General of BHBCUC, said: "We believe that in the interests of equality, justice and democracy, the hope of all religious communities in Bangladesh is to put an end to religious discrimination in the National Assembly of Bangladesh. BHBCUC leaders say introducing readings from the holy books of the four major religions would be a significant symbolic gesture to behold pluralism in Bangladesh on the eve of the country’s golden jubilee of independence from Pakistan this year. Already from 1973 to 1975, the Council recalls, the reading of the Holy Scriptures took place in parliamentary sessions. Parliamentary sessions and state programs in Muslim-majority Bangladesh now begin with a recitation from the Quran. Dasgupta appealed to the president and the government to take the initiative to pray according to the various religious rites of the parliamentarians present: there are in fact 19 members of parliaments from minority religious communities in the National Assembly.
Christian leader Nirmol Rozario, president of BHBCUC, agreeing with Dasgupta's request, affirms: "We want a secular country respectful of all citizens, of all religious faiths. During the war of independence, people of all faiths fought for an independent country and many of them were among the victims of the war. Today we all have the right to practice our religion". "We humbly ask the President of Parliament and Prime Minister Shekh Hasina to begin the recitation of the sacred books of all religions before the start of each Parliamentary session", said Rozario.
Buddhist religious leader Bhikkhu Sunanda Priya said the government will give more space for minority religious groups, "the image of Bangladesh will be brighter". Out of 160 million inhabitants, about 89.5% of the population in Bangladesh profess the Muslim faith, 9.6% is Hindu and the remaining 0.9% includes Christians (among them 400,000 Catholics), Buddhists and sikh. (FC) (Agenzia Fides, 13/2/2021)