Mutual respect between Christians, Muslims possible, Bangladesh peacemaker says
Eleven international peacemakers from different countries around the world will visit congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 23-Oct. 18.
They will share their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Bangladesh, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Madagascar, Mexico, Russia and Sudan.
The Rev. Samuel Sunil Mankhin is the bishop of Kushtia Diocese and deputy moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, a united church with more than 80 congregations in a predominantly Muslim country where Christians make up less than one-half of one percent of the population. He has more than 20 years of pastoral experience and has initiated programs to promote peace, justice and harmony in his country.
He will be visiting congregations and presbyteries in Texas, Oregon and Arkansas.
Q: What is the situation in your country that you will be addressing?
“I will be talking about the chaos and problems we have: Muslim fundamentalism which has been starving our spiritual life, and climate change ― we are in a coastal area so this is a serious problem.”
Q: How are the faith communities addressing this situation?
“We are promoting local initiatives. One day we’ll be underwater, but for now we are trying to stop the cutting down of all our trees without planting new trees. We are supplying saplings and plants to school children so we can reforest our own country.
“We are a small church, but we’re doing a lot, making good relationships with Muslims. We involve them in our schools, hospitals and other institutions. We also try to show solidarity when there are disasters. Though we are a small minority, we are surviving well.”
Q: What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
“We are successfully seeking dialogue with Muslim leaders, telling them that we are all citizens of Bangladesh and have been brothers and sisters for centuries. We are not the enemy, we respect Islam. We are not Westerners ― why should we want to kill our brothers and sisters. We don’t fear and are not worried.”
Q: What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
“There are growing numbers of Muslims in the U.S. They are not outsiders ― make friends and be both frank with them and in solidarity with them when there’s trouble. I have experienced mutual respect in Bangladesh and it can happen too in the U.S.”