Politics, Media, and Social Cohesion in Bangladesh

Challenges and Pathways

Arial photo of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

May 22, 2024
10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Maguire Hall Room 304 Map

The World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD) has explored and documented critical relationships between religion and development in Bangladesh since 2013. Continuing this effort, this event focused on how the platforms of different religious parties present but also are shaped by religious beliefs and approaches.

Religion plays a significant role in the public sphere of Bangladesh, reflecting its rich cultural heritage and historical background. The nation's founding principles, rooted in secularism, have shaped the intricate relationship between religion and public life, weaving together elements of tradition, identity, and governance. Religion provides spiritual guidance but it also influences various aspects of societal structure and discourse in the country, including socio-political narratives, education curricula, gender norms and legal frameworks, and development and humanitarian approaches. Nonetheless, tensions arise between secular governance and religious identity assertion, fueling ongoing debates on issues such as personal law, freedom of expression, and the role of religious institutions in public affairs.

This seminar focused on the role of political parties in shaping social cohesion in Bangladesh, the mainstream media's role in addressing religion in Bangladesh, and the challenges and opportunities to foster a cohesive, inclusive society, particularly in the digital era. Analyzing 32 election manifestos from six major parties since 1991, the first paper presentation explored how parties address identity, pluralism, and cohesive values. Despite acknowledging diversity, parties lack robust commitments to bridge communal divides. The paper calls for further scrutiny of party commitments and their implementation in practice. The second paper presentation examined the role of mainstream media in addressing religion and faith-related issues in Bangladesh. Highlighting debates on control, access, freedom, and surveillance within journalism, it discusses the challenges posed by inadequate skills and ethical knowledge. The paper explores how mainstream media can improve faith-related reporting to foster a cohesive, inclusive, and pluralistic society. With the rise of digital media, the symbiosis between faith and media has become more complex, necessitating a closer examination of the media's role in facilitating interfaith dialogues and addressing faith-based identity formation.

An informal boxed lunch followed the event.

This event was co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University and the World Faiths Development Dialogue.

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