Unveiling Unity: A Confluence of Cultures at Chattogram's Festival of Tolerance
Festival of Tolerance to promote peace and harmony for Smart Bangladesh
September 26, 2023
The Festival of Tolerance, aimed at fostering a peaceful, tolerant, and harmonious Bangladesh, took place today (24 September) at Zila Shilpakala Academy in Chattogram, organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under its Partnerships for a More Tolerant and Inclusive Bangladesh (PTIB) project, supported by the Norwegian Embassy Dhaka, in association with the ICT Division and UNESCO.
Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury, MP, State Minister of Education, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. In his speech, the State Minister emphasised the government's unwavering commitment to inclusive development, recognising the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of Bangladesh as a cornerstone of sustainable economic progress. He underscored the importance of ensuring a safe and inclusive cyberspace for all citizens. “Our government is continuing the great journey of development by taking people of all ethnic groups, religions, colours, languages , and cultures together in building a Smart Bangladesh. We believe cultural and ethnic diversity will lead to sustainable economic development and a prosperous Bangladesh,” Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury said.
Sonali Dayaratne, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh, highlighted the significance of diversity and the festival's essence. She praised the collaborative efforts of organisers, respected guests, and youth participants. “ Bangladesh has a history of rich cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity. For decades, the country has embraced the values of togetherness in diversity. The importance of diversity is also well reflected in the Government's vision of a "Smart" Bangladesh. In particular, in the ambitions of nurturing and promoting Bangladesh's culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence for Human Development,” Sonali said.
Ambassador Espen Rikter-Svendsen of the Royal Norwegian Embassy commended Bangladesh's commitment to diversity and inclusivity, acknowledging the connection between inclusion, community, and tolerance. He said, “Norway always regards diversity and harmony with special attention and dignity. To address intolerance, I see a connection between inclusion, community, and diversity, which the PTIB Project also points out. I believe that Bangladesh will continue to uplift the values of humanity, harmony, and togetherness for balanced and just development.”
The Festival also featured notable figures such as Mostafa Kamal Jatra, Executive Director of Unite Theater for Social Action, and Nirupa Dewan, former member of the National Human Rights Commission, who expressed their optimism for a more tolerant and peaceful society.
Abu Sayed, Project Director of the PTIB Project, emphasised the role of technology in promoting virtual tolerance and countering hate speech.
The event showcased cultural diversity through performances, including harmony dances, Chakma songs, and music by children with special needs, underscoring the power of art and culture in fostering unity. A discussion session on "Youth Mindfulness towards Tolerance" moderated by Sheela Tasneem Haq, Senior Governance Specialist, UNDP, engaged the youth in envisioning a smarter and more harmonious Bangladesh.
In closing, Robert Stoelman, Project Manager, PTIB expressed gratitude to partners for their support in achieving the goals of the PTIB Project, urging the youth to combat intolerance in all its forms. Among others, Abul Bashar Mohammad Fakhruzzaman, Chittagong Deputy Commissioner, Susan Vize, Officer-in-Charge, UNESCO, Barrister Devasish Roy, Raja, Chakma Circle, also spoke.
The Festival of Tolerance stands as a testament to Bangladesh's dedication to building a brighter, more tolerant, and harmonious future, embracing diversity as its greatest strength. ActionAid Bangladesh, and the Institute for Environment and Development also joined the initiative.
Embracing Diversity for a Harmonious Future: The Festival of Tolerance marks a milestone in Bangladesh's journey towards cultivating peace, inclusivity, and unity amid a rich cultural backdrop, reinforcing the nation's strides towards a Smart Bangladesh.