Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
As I am writing this blog my heart has started to cry for the people who have lost their loved ones, especially for the foreign citizens who had come to visit my country Bangladesh. First, I express my deepest sorrow and condolences to each of the families of the twenty people who were so horrifically killed by the terrorists on the night of July 1. I also extend my condolences to the families of the two police officers who laid down their lives in trying to resist the attackers and sincerely acknowledge their bravery and devotion to duty.
On June 5th, I travelled to Bangkok to attend the Fellowship Course on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution. That’s why I am out of my country till now. During my course on Module 1 – ‘The Concepts and Values of Peace and Conflict Studies’ I came to know that Bangladesh is in 48th position among the countries of the world in the peace building process. In my mind, I was so happy and feeling proud to realize that we, the Bangladeshi people, are at peace. At the same time I felt sad to hear from a few fellows about the terrorist activities in their countries. On June 1st, around 19 days later, it was a deep shock for me to visualize the “Gulshan Attack”. It was the first time I realized that I woke up to a reality which I had not noticed before.
As an ordinary citizen of Bangladesh I cannot explain what terrorism is, how it manifests, what its causes are, and how it is most effectively dealt with. Only I can say how the Bangladeshi people of different religions are living together in trust: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and the indigenous people. We have the same language, the same culture, and the same feelings for each other. I never feel insecure about my son when I travel to work because my neighbors are there to take care of him. The bond between Muslims and Non-Muslims is strong in Bangladesh. I never felt threatened by my neighbors. I have never mistrusted a friend who is a Muslim or a person from any other religion. And so the question is, who is creating mistrust in the people? Who is responsible for this situation? Why are people so aggressive? Why are we now feeling scared to live in our country? Where shall we go? Why is the country becoming so insecure for minorities, foreigners and innocent people?
My country is a small, densely populated South Asian nation still grappling with poverty, although the poverty scenario has rapidly changed over the last two decades and Bangladesh has achieved the MDG target of poverty reduction ahead of the stipulated time. Bangladesh’s territory is also deeply vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In spite of its vulnerabilities, Bangladesh has also been a source of positive news. As per a recent assessment by World Bank economists, “by any standards, [the] Bangladesh economy has done well,” with economic growth exceeding 6%. In fact, an International Monetary Fund report from earlier this year noted, the economy has been “strong and largely” stable since the mid-1990s. A key driver has been the country’s $26 billion garment industry, which accounts for around 80% of its exports. As the economy grew, the number of Bangladeshis living in poverty fell and social indicators improved, with the government putting money into initiatives to empower women and improve food security.
Though Bangladesh has been on the road to economic development, since 2013 we have been facing a new challenge from a fundamentalist group. Targeted killings are steadily on the rise, with writers and activists critical of Islam were targeted as well as blamed for inspiring the violence. Later, members of the country’s religious minorities and the foreigners were targeted and killed. In many cases, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) sought to take credit for the attacks.
The tragic attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant on July 1st marked a hateful escalation in the extremist threat. I am worried about our economic condition, which is likely to be negatively affected soon if we cannot put bridle on the spree of terrorism quickly, as many donors and business owners are feeling insecure.
Despite all this, it is high time to move away from the debates over whether the terrorists are home-grown or members of ISIS or Al Qaida. We must acknowledge the on-the-ground realities that these groups are ideologically linked with such international outfits, who are trying to spoil our economy, our brotherhoods, our culture; moreover, our reputation of as religiously tolerant nation is being tarnished. We must also think about how our educational system may be contributing to the radicalization of the younger generation towards the distorted path of murder and suicide. Every single person must feel the social responsibility to take part in the fight against terrorism. There the glowing example of the Turkish people and their approach towards accepting divergent political and religious beliefs, contributing to a peaceful environment. It is also time to embrace one another, forgetting all differences and ill-feelings in the spirit of brotherhood –this could be a stepping stone towards forming a broad-based of national unity against terrorism. I never wanted to see such an incident repeat itself in the future. Amar Sonar Bangla, AmiTomayValobasi (My Golden Bengal, I love you!).
Kanika Chakraborty – Bangladesh
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 21