Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

How did I get onto this topic?

Found out today Memory is sending her little boy off to school in the big bad city of Dhaka next year. He is in class 2, and as kids here are smaller than us burly Saffas, to me he looks even younger. She’s found an English-medium Christian mission school in Dhaka. I’m now checking this place out online, and have found some info. Which is a good thing, as people here are so vulnerable to scams and being exploited.

The school sounds pretty good (i.e. it does actually exist), except for ‘The students are taught the Scriptures and live together in a loving Christian environment. Many of the older children have chosen to follow Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.’ This makes me deeply uncomfortable. I read this as ‘we try to convert as many children to Christianity as possible’. Not that I have an issue with Christianity, but why the need to encourage a change in faith? Ever? Especially here in Bangladesh where one’s religion is very much part of one’s culture and community. A decision to change faith that is arrived at naturally and independently is, of course, quite a different matter. Individual choice is what it’s about. But for little 8 year olds?

I’m all for religion, but totally against encouraging conversion. And, in my mind anyway, religions are all based on the same basic truths and beliefs, it’s just the periphery stuff that changes. It’s all one God. Hell, even the Dalai Lama urges people to embrace the teachings of compassion and peace that can be found in their own religious traditions, rather than convert to Buddhism. After all, all major religions carry the same messages. Messages of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline.

I think this diatribe was sparked a few weeks ago when I met a Chakma pastor here in Rangamati. Chakma’s are Buddhist by tradition, though a few indigenous tribes are Christian, having been converted by missionaries about 100 years ago. Others are animist, one group Hindu. Anyway, so somewhere there is a church (Assembly of God I believe) that is out here in the Hill Tracts, knocking on people’s doors to advise them of an eternity in hell if they don’t accept Jesus Christ. This Chakma pastor had converted post a door-knocking, and now he’s the one knocking on doors. Watching him tell me how he had been ‘saved’ was bordering on frightening, and one Sunday I fully expect this man to come find me and try drag me to his church.

One thing I really admire about Moanoghar is that despite being founded by Buddhist monks, and in part still run by Buddhist monks, it does not belong to any religious authority and respects the beliefs of each member by forbidding any kind of conversion.

Ok, enough about religion for now. Sorry. And good night.


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