Bangladesh Embassy hosts interfaith event
Thomas Cromwell

The Embassy of Bangladesh was host to an unusual event on November 29. Instead of the usual crowd of diplomatic types sipping cocktails and nibbling on canapés, the group of some 120 guests that gathered on this occasion came from a broad cross-section of the world’s faiths and included a good number of activists in inter-religious organizations.

“History shows that it is only through dialogue we not only achieve peace but more importantly we sustain peace,” Ambassador Shamsher Chowdhury told his guests.

Prayers and blessings were offered by a range of religious leaders, including Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University, Rabbi Marc Gopin, Director of George Mason University`s Center on Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, and Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, of the Washington Interfaith Alliance.

The ambassador said that Bangladesh is well-suited as a peacemaker: “I feel Bangladesh is suitably placed to promote such interfaith dialogue. Our very constitution states categorically in Article 28 (1) “the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”

He noted that: “Traditionally, every Bangladeshi has believed in the spirit and the practice of equality of mankind.  Communal harmony is part of our very core.” 

The ambassador is an enthusiastic advocate of inter-religious dialog and says he is “eager to extend networking opportunities among diplomatic, congressional and interfaith communities in the American capital.”

Billed as a “multi-cultural evening of socializing and creating community,” the event drew members of the diplomatic corps, religious leaders from various faiths, members of Congress and interfaith activists.

The evening also featured the screening of God and Allah Need to Talk, a film designed to foster inter-religious healing and reconciliation post 9/11. Los Angeles documentary filmmaker and international interfaith activist Ruth Broyde-Sharone was on hand to explain the genesis of her film, which was inspired by a Hollywood billboard with the words “God and Allah Need to Talk”. The film chronicles an interfaith initiative in the LA area in which Muslims and Christians participate in Jewish seders.
Under-Secretary of State for Public Affairs Karen Hughes had been scheduled to give a keynote address, but had to cancel at the last minute in order to accompany Condoleezza Rice and President Bush on their visit to Jordan. She sent a message saying she was with the gathering in spirit and sent her senior staff to show the support of her office for the event.

The crowd, fortified with Bangladeshi dishes prepared by the ambassador’s chef, and entertained by music and dance, was awash in interfaith goodwill.

The ambassador hopes that his initiative will support and inspire others: “Our humble efforts today at promoting and fostering interfaith dialogue and communal harmony should be part of a larger global process through which we seek to achieve peace in dignity and tolerance through dialogue.”