Thousands join Ethiopia-Eritrea peace run

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Competitors hold a banner with images of leaders as they gather to run the first Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace and reconciliation Run (10km) at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa on November 11, 2018. (AFP)
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A runner holds Eritrea’s national flag during the first Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace and reconciliation Run (10km) in Addis Ababa on November 11, 2018. (AFP)
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Runners hold Eritrea’s national flag during the first Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace and reconciliation Run (10km) in Addis Ababa on November 11, 2018. (AFP)
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Competitors react as they run during the first Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace and reconciliation Run (10km) in Addis Ababa on November 11, 2018. (AFP)
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Competitors run during the first Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace and reconciliation Run (10km) in Addis Ababa on November 11, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 November 2018
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Thousands join Ethiopia-Eritrea peace run

ADDIS ABABA: Thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans took part in a 10-kilometer reconciliation run Sunday in Addis Ababa in the first joint sporting event since the former bitter foes launched a rapid diplomatic thaw in July.
The peace run through the Ethiopian capital caught a new positive mood after years of “cold war.”
The two countries fought a war from 1998-2000 that left an estimated 80,000 people dead on both sides.
Reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took over in Addis Ababa in April and kicked off peace moves, agreeing to hand back disputed areas to Eritrea.
The neighbors have restored diplomatic ties, trade and phone links, resumed flights and re-opened their common borders.
Sunday was the first athletics event for the new friends and Ethiopian Mohammed Ahmed said he took time off work and trained hard for the “noble” race.
“I’m very happy, I don’t know how I can properly express my happiness to you, there is nothing more than love, reconciliation and happiness in this world,” he said.
Ethiopian police constable Chalachew Addis had personal reasons to attend after the borders were re-opened on September 11.
“With the opening of the border my brother has come back to Ethiopia after 20 years and met me,” said a beaming Chalachew.
“I’m running this race while wearing Eritrean flag, I feel happy this day has come,” he told AFP.
Nega Belay, former coach of Eritrean athletics star Zersenay Tadese and a representative of the Eritrean community in London was also celebrating.
“This is not a run of two people, but a run of one people, what differentiates them is minor or can be said to be non-existent, they are similar in every sense,” Nega told AFP.
He said he was holding discussions with Eritrean National Athletics Federation (ENAF) to stage a similar event in the Eritrean capital Asmara on January 1, 2019.
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s and war broke out later that decade over a border dispute.
A 2002 UN-backed boundary demarcation was meant to settle the dispute, but Ethiopia refused to abide by it.


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 21 May 2019
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Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.