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

Local residents have praised the generosity of Dhaka’s Buddhist monastery in distributing Bangladeshi iftar items. (AN photo)
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.


G20 set to agree on marine plastic pollution deal

Updated 31 min 3 sec ago
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G20 set to agree on marine plastic pollution deal

  • Plastic pollution has become an increasing international concern
  • Among the many concerns is the issue of microplastics, the tiny pieces of degraded waste that are difficult to collect once they enter the water

TOKYO: The Group of 20 major economies were set to agree a deal on reducing marine plastic waste at a meeting in Japan Sunday where they also discussed energy security following the oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.
Japan “proposed a workable framework” on marine plastic waste that involves emerging and less developed countries, and was welcomed by member countries, environment minister Yoshiaki Harada told reporters late Saturday at the G20 environment and energy ministers’ meeting.
Plastic pollution has become an increasing international concern, particularly after bans imposed by China and other countries on the import of plastic waste from overseas.
Many countries, including Japan, have seen plastic waste pile up in the wake of the ban.
Among the many concerns is the issue of microplastics, the tiny pieces of degraded waste that are difficult to collect once they enter the water.
Microplastics tend to absorb harmful chemicals and accumulate inside fish, birds and other animals.
The proposal, made at the two-day meeting in the central mountain resort of Karuizawa, would be the first-ever framework to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean, and is expected to be included in a joint communique by the G20 ministers later Sunday.
Under the expected agreement, G20 members would commit to undertaking efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up polluting oceans and to reporting their progress on a regular basis, according to Japanese media.
If an international framework on reducing marine plastic waste is agreed, it would be “the first step toward resolving the issue,” Hiroaki Odachi of Greenpeace Japan told AFP.
“But given the critical situation of ocean pollution with plastics, it is urgently needed to set up legally binding action plans with clear timelines and goals,” he added.
With only an estimated nine percent of plastics ever produced recycled, campaigners say the only long-term solution to the plastic waste crisis is for companies to make less and consumers to use less.
Japanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko, who is co-chairing the discussions with Harada, said late Saturday that Japan would aim to require businesses to charge for disposable shopping bags by as early as April to help reduce waste.
Many countries in the world already charge for single-use bags or ban them outright.
On energy security, Seko said Tokyo “is watching with grave concerns at the attacks on oil tankers by someone.”
“From a viewpoint of global energy security, it is necessary for the international community to jointly deal with the act,” Seko told the meeting.
The ministers agreed on the importance of securing stable energy supplies, he said.