Ven. Suddhananda Mahathero
Copied here is the address given by the leader of the Buddhist group to fellow participants of the TLIG pilgrimage in Egypt in October 2002:
It is indeed an honour for me to be present here on this historic occasion of today. At the outset, I wish to convey my sincere thanks to the organizers for inviting me to this conference and making all the arrangements for our visit to Egypt. On behalf of the peace loving people, the members of our Bangladesh delegation and on my behalf, I wish to convey my best wishes and sincere greeting to you all.
It is beautiful for all of us that Egypt has been chosen as the host country of such an historic occasion of today. Egypt, the great country is a symbol of religious tolerance in which Article 40 says all citizens are equal before the law. I have the opportunity to come and attend in such a country where there is freedom of religious belief and of practice of religious rites.
With regard to our homeland Bangladesh, let me give a very short statement. Bangladesh is a land having the burdened population of more than 130 million people. The major religious are Muslim which are 83%, Hindu which is 15.5%, and Buddhist, Christian and others are about 1.5%. We got our freedom in 1972 and secularism was one of fundamental points. Afterwards our constitution declared Islam as the state religion but it guarantees that other religions may be practiced. Discrimination of religion by the state is forbidden and our government positions are open to people of all faiths. We are enjoying full freedom of speech, freedom of thoughts. We have much religious tolerance. I am tempted to mention here that the recent communal disharmony in Guzrat of India did not at all affect our country. Last week I had the opportunity to call on our President who is thankful to all of us for the peaceful religious co-existence in Bangladesh.
We all are gathered here with our individual faiths and religion aiming at sitting together with our own prayer. Prayer concentrates and purifies our mind, controls our ego, encourages the performing of good deeds and keeps us away from the anti-social activities. Prayer reminds us, we can make our lives sublime. The Christians have their prayer in their way, Muslims pray five times a day, the Hindus pray in their own way, the Jews have their own way of prayers. The Buddhists pray in the morning and in the evening apart from the mass prayers during some specific full-moon days. Today all the channels have mixed together with one single stream. Today we have forgotten the sense of discrimination. Today's prayer will be marked as a symbol of total solidarity for the sake of humanity.
In concluding my short remarks, I once again express my heartiest congratulations to the organizers who have undertaken the tremendous efforts and dedication. I sincerely hope that this joint prayer will strengthen the concept of peaceful co-existence which will contribute in cementing the world peace thus making the world a land of non-violence.
May all beings be happy.
Ven. Suddhananda Mahathero
Head of the Bangladesh Delegation Team
President Bangladesh Bouddha Kristi Prachar Sangha
& Vice-President World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), Bangkok,Thailand