South Asia Interfaith Summit

9 September 2016, 5:22 PM

The Institute for Policy, Advocacy and Governance (IPAG; Bangladesh), the Centre for Interfaith & Cultural Dialogue (CICD; Griffith University), and Ma'din Academy (Kerala) jointly organized a three-day conference on Interfaith Harmony and Sustainable Development on July 25-27, 2016. The conference had nine sessions, each focusing on different aspects of the theme.

The program was opened by Mr. P. Ramakrishna, the Speaker of the Kerala Assembly. The welcome address was given by Swamy Agnivesh, Founder and Chairperson of Bandhu Mukti Morcha; Sri M., Founder of the Satsang Foundation; Swami Ritambarananda, General Secretary of the Dharma Sangam Trust; Shivagiri Mutt; and Professor Syed Munir Khashru, Chairman of IPAG.

One of the sessions was on “Interfaith engagement at educational institutions: promoting tolerance and sustainable development”. The session was presided over by Professor Abdul Aziz Bergout, Pro Rector of International Islamic University, Malaysia. Professor Kazi Nurul Islam of the Department of World Religions and Culture at the University of Dhaka and of the URI in Bangladesh CC, was one of the two panelists for the session.

In his discussion, Professor Islam talked about how his father inspired him as a boy to dedicate his life to unity among people of different conflicting faiths. He explained the importance of learning one's own religion and the religions of others to work for interfaith understanding. He learned different religions not only from books but also from his lived experience in many parts of the globe. During these travels and studies, Professor Islam realized that more that 85% of the world do not know their own religions correctly and 99% do not have a good understanding of other faiths. Professor Islam hypothesized that this is the main cause of fanaticism, inter-religious enmity, and religiously-motivated conflict. To help prevent this, he established a Department of World Religions and Culture at the University of Dhaka in 1999. In this Department, all the religions of the world, major, minor, living, or dead are taught with genuine respect and importance. As a result, every year the University produces a good number of enlightened citizens of the world.

Professor Islam is an advocate for all the universities of the world to establish a Department of the Academic Study of Religions for objective study of religions based in history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and psychology. He also urged UNESCO to introduce a compulsory course on the moral teachings of different religions of the world in all the secondary schools of the world. Professor Islam asserts that this is the only way to prevent inter-religious enmity, hatred, conflict and terrorism in the name of religion. At the end of his discussion, Professor Islam categorically asserted that those who are involved with the killing of innocent people in the name of religion, do not belong to any religion, they are enemies of their own religion and enemies of mankind, and that only the moral teachings of any religion can bring them back to the fold of human beings again.