Inter-religious Dialogue held in Meherpur District
Roton Malo, Back from Meherpur:
Speakers at an Inter-religious Dialogue program urged all to treat persons affected by leprosy humanely as many people suffering from leprosy and leprosy-related disability are being deprived by the society and community people in Bangladesh.
They made these remarks at “Inter-religious Dialogue on Leprosy & Social Exclusion” on March 24 (Wednesday), organized by SHALOM which was supported by The Leprosy Mission International-Bangladesh (TLMI-B), TLM Northern Ireland and TLM England & Wales.
The dialogue was attended by leaders of Islam, Hindu and Christian religions including local representatives and civil society members.
Hafez Md Abbas Ali and Hafez Abdullah Al Noman of Muslim religion, Sree Proshanto Upadhya from Hindu religion, and Pastor Albert Phalia from Christian religion were the key speakers of the Inter-religious Dialogue.
Besides Meherpur Municipality’s Panel Mayor Md Shahinur Rahman Riton, Advocate Rebecca Shova Mondol, Sabiruddin Degree College’s Professor Md Bablu, Mujibnagar Upazila Health Complex’s Medical Officer (MO) Dr Tuhin, Daily Observer Meherpur Correspondent Senior Journalist Md Rafiqul Islam, Mujibnagar Upazila Jubo League’s General Secretary Babul Mollick, school teacher Debashis Mukharjee, TLMI-B Project Manager Masuma Parvin and Sandhya Mondol, AEP’s Meherpur Program Coordinator, SHALOM among others were present.
The Inter-religious Dialogue was started with verses from scriptures of three religions while the main discussion was started by a welcome speech by TLMI-B Program Support Coordinator Mr Jiptha Boiragee.
During the dialogue two persons affected leprosy, shared their own experiences about how they had been excluded and discriminated by their own family members and society as soon as they were diagnosed as affected by leprosy.
Hafez Md Abbas Ali, said “There’s cure for every disease. Medicine has been invented too to cure Leprosy.”
“Disease comes from Allah to examine the Musollis (devotees), but Allah has created medicine for all disease in nature,” he said adding that “Still there are superstitions in our society and people wrongly believe those and discriminate leprosy patients.”
“People frequently deprive persons affected by leprosy in Meherpur which is a superstition indeed,” Hafez Md Abbas Ali said adding that from everybody should stand against this superstition and work from their position.
“I’ll surely speak against superstition regarding leprosy,” added Hafez Md Abbas Ali.
Sree Proshanto Upadhya of Mujibnagar Temple, said “God gives disease, but GOD never cursed people to be affected by leprosy.”
He urged the attendants at the dialogue to avoid superstitions and extend helping hands towards patients affected by leprosy.
Pastor Albert Phalia of Meherpur Church of Bangladesh, said “Jesus Christ cured leprosy patients. He never taught people to hate leprosy patients but extend hand of love and compassion.”
Quoting a verse from the Bible, Pastor Albert Phalia said that “Jesus told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Love each other and this is the golden rule.”
“We should love the persons affected by leprosy and shouldn’t exclude them from society,” he added.
Meherpur Municipality’s Panel Mayor Md Shahinur Rahman Riton, said “We must be more humane to persons affected by leprosy and extend our hands of compassion towards them.”
He also urged religious leaders to influence and inspire the devotees of their respective devotees to speak about the rights of persons affected by leprosy during speaking at mosques, temple and churches. “Nobody should be deprived in society,” he said.
Panel Mayor Md Shahinur also pledged to provide all kinds of facilities provided by the municipality to the persons affected by leprosy in Meherpur.
Attending the event, Md Rafiqul Islam, Meherpur district correspondent, Daily Observer, said he is very much involved in leprosy activities in the district and visited many patients through TLMI-B activities in the district.
The senior journalist said that he will write more to raise awareness against the social exclusion of persons affected by leprosy.
After the dialogue program, the religious leaders, members of civil society including SHALOM and TLMI-B staff handed over a special gift to Hadesa Khatun, a woman affected by leprosy for voluntarily working in new case detection in Meherpur district.
Saved from leprosy by the help of TLMI-B, Hadesa Khatun also a leader of Self-help Group (SHG), started working as an active volunteer in her locality and referred ten new leprosy cases.
Masuma Parvin, Project Manager, AEP, TLMI-B and Meherpur Coordinator Sandhya Mondol delivered two separate power point presentations on leprosy and leprosy situation in Meherpur District respectively.
TLMI-B Project Officer Roton Malo and Project Manager Masuma Parvin jointly anchored the Inter-religious Dialogue in Meherpur.