The Peace Ambassador #1

May 2018 Newsletter of our peace-building work in Bangladesh

Peace Pressure Groups (PPGs) owe their origin to the People Against Violence in Elections (PAVE) project, which has been implemented by The Hunger Project since 2015. There are now 1,221 members in 58 PPGs in 58 upazilas. The PPG Program is supported by the Strengthening Political Landscape (SPL) project of Democracy International (DI)/U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the SPADE II project of International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)/Department for International Development (DFID).

Included here are demonstrations of Peace Pressure Groups and Peace Ambassadors in action in their communities. They are using their new skills to resolve conflicts, gathering leaders across the political and cultural spectrum, and holding public events where leaders and communities are publicly demonstrating their commitment to social cohesion and peace — setting the foundation for a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive Bangladesh.

Installation of ‘Code of Conduct’ Display Board Charghat, Rajshahi; 10 March 2017

The Charghat PPG has installed a billboard displaying the Code of Conduct (CoC) that was signed by the AL, BNP and JP political party leaders on June 30, 2016. ‘Dignity, Security and Diversity’ were the core values of the CoC, which form the basic requirements to establish a pluralistic, tolerant and inclusive society. The Code of Conduct includes commitments to:

  • Avoid violence and uphold democratic values and civic rights;
  • Be respectful of individual dignity and right of self-expression;
  • Recognize the existence of and be respectful of diversity and promote pluralism;
  • Resist ethnic or religious extremism and intolerance and Resolve conflicts through peaceful dialogue.
  • Resolve conflicts through peaceful dialogue.

Charghat PPG was the pioneer among the PPGs in convincing the political parties to come to an agreement for peace, harmony, and non-violence in their locality. The signing of the CoC on June 31, 2016 was lauded by the public authorities and by wider society as an unprecedented and unique milestone, given the prevailing confrontational politics and current toxic political environment.

With the national election approaching at the end of this year and recalling the trauma of 2014 atrocities, the Charghat PPG decided to remind all the leaders about their commitment to peace and non-violence. On 10 March 2018, the PPG held a rally that went from Charghat Bus Stand to Shaheed Minar, and which ended with formally installing the billboard in the presence of a mass gathering. A summary of the ‘Code of Conduct’now displays the commitment of local leaders on a billboard in front of the local Press Club. They plan to install similar billboards in public places in every Union of the Upazila and arrange social gatherings during the installation.

This pioneering initiative inspired political and civil society activists and generated collective hope of a peaceful future for Charghat. The PPG members thought that the billboard would not only provide a useful reminder to the politicians, but would also inspire and generate public opinion in favor of peace. Md. Saiful Islam Badsha, Peace Ambassador and Awami League leader said, “The display board of the Code of Conduct will be treated as a groundbreaking initiative for the peace movement in Charghat, Rajshahi. We believe that it will also be replicated in other parts of Bangladesh.”

Political Leaders signed Code of Conduct (CoC) at Puthia, Rajshahi 21 April 2018

The PPG in Puthia Upazila brought together all political party leaders to hold a dialogue on peace and social harmony during the upcoming elections. Leaders from Awami League, BNP and Jatiyo Party along with local civil society leaders attended the dialogue.

The participants agreed to work together to prevent electoral and political violence. Former MP and Member of BNP Central Committee Mr. Md. Abdus Sattar Mandal said, “The peace movement is badly needed to overcome challenges of the contemporary political situation.”

After the discussion, a CoC was signed jointly by the Vice President of Puthia Upazila Awami League Mr. Kazi Sharif, Former MP and Member of BNP Central Committee Md. Abdus Sattar Mandal, and former MP and President of Jatiya Party Rajshahi District Committee Md. Abul Hossain.

PPG members bring all political leaders together to celebrate Bangla New Year at Naogaon 14 April 2018

While the country’s political leaders are divided with their political agendas and priorities, the Peace Pressure Groups (PPGs) at Naogaon have set an outstanding example by bringing all political leaders together to celebrate the Bangla New Year 1425. PPGs at Dhamuhat, Patnitala, Mahadevpur and Sapahar Upazila gathered 236 political leaders from all major political parties as well as civil society leaders. Some featured quotes are below:

Attending the event, Mr. Shahidul Islam, Secretary of the Dhamoirhat Upazila Awami League said, “We all have to act responsibly as we are the owners of Bangladesh. We should uphold the spirit of the War of Liberation.”

Mr. Mahfujur Rahman Jewel, Vice Chairperson of the Mahadevpur Upazila BNP said, “Today let’s make a unanimous decision that we will work together to maintain peace and harmony in our community.”

Mr. Bulbul Chowdhury, President of the Patnitala Press Club said, “Historically we have records of peaceful coexistence in Patnitala. However, in recent time we had some problems. Now is the right time to move forward forgetting our political vengeance.”

Mr. Kallyan Kumar of UNO, Sapahar said, “I thought that I was the only changemaker here. But, today I could see many changemakers working in Sapahar for the community. I am proud of all you.”

Youth Dialogue on Peace and Harmony Gurudaspur, Natore 19 April 2018

Youth Dialogue on Peace and Harmony Gurudaspur, Natore 19 April 2018
The dialogue’s objective was to educate and engage local youths for
peace-building and social harmony in their communities. A total of 50
students — 22 of them girls — from four local colleges attended the
event. A student, Ms. Sadia Afroz Mim, said about the event, “All
religions talk about peace and Peace Ambassadors Mr. Habibur
Rahman Jalal, Ms. Rokasana Parveen and Mr. Shahjahan Ali
together with Peace Coordinator Mr. Ekramul Hoque and the entire PPG
at Gurudaspur Upazila organized a daylong event titled “Youth
Dialogue on Peace and Social Harmony.”

harmony. Today, I came to realize
that we are moving towards an
unstable future. I will work with
my family and friends for
peacebuilding.”

Roundtable on “Citizen Responsibilities to Maintain Social Harmony” at Karimganj, Kishoreganj 10 April 2018

Peace Ambassadors Mr. Motiur Rahaman Bhuiyan and Mr. Sadek
Ahmed Swapan organized a roundtable on “Citizen Responsibilities to Maintain Social Harmony.” The participants were
political leaders, civil society members, teachers and students
from the local community. After event, the participants suggested
holding more such workshops and courtyard meetings at the community
level.

Mr. Azizur Rahman Dulai from BNP said, “We need to organize parent
meetings at schools and colleges to educate parents about early signs of radicalization.” Ms. Sharmin Sultana, UNO said, “Such harmony workshops should be organized at ward shavas in every Union Parishad.”

Roundtable on Free and Fair Elections at Khansama, Dinajpur 12 April 2018

Peace Ambassador Mr. Nurul Haque organized a roundtable on “Free
and Fair Elections.” A total of 53 participants, including
representatives from various political parties, government officers, civil
society members and teachers participated in this event. A keynote
paper on the subject was presented at the roundtable. In the end, all
political leaders took a pledge to work together for free, fair and
violence-free elections in the coming days. Some featured quotes are
below:

Mr. Shafiul Azam Chowdhury, Secretary, Khanshama Upazila Awami League said, “Violence was present in previous elections in Khansama. But today I promise that we will work together to
ensure that there will be no
violence in future elections.” Mr.
Sayed Ahmed Selim, Secretary,
Khanshama Upazila BNP said, “We
will hold a violence-free election
campaign during upcoming
elections.” Mr. Ahmed Mahbub Ul
Islam, Upazila Nirbahi Officer said,
”Candidates will have to put
posters at the designated places
during the election. Candidates
will also have to attend face-toface meetings to ensure free and
fair election.”

PAVE harmony workshop with community members Gopalpur, Tangail on 8 April 2018

Peace Ambassadors Ms. Anju
Anowara and Mr. Khariul Islam
conducted a PAVE harmony
workshop with 65 community
members, of which nine were firsttime voters. The workshop was
organized to maintain social
harmony and cohesion as part of
peacebuilding efforts at the
grassroots level.

Roundtable Discussion on “Fair and Violence-Free
Elections; Citizen Views” at Mymensingh Sadar
20 April 2018

Peace Ambassador Advocates
Shibbir Ahmed Liton and Mr.
Morshedul Alam Jahangir organized
a roundtable on “Fair and ViolenceFree Elections: Citizens’ Views”, in
Mymensingh Sadar Upazila.

The meeting included discussions
about the roles and responsibilities
of political parties and civil society
members for peaceful parliamentary
elections. A total of 68 participants
attended the meeting. Mr. Aminul
Islam from JSD said, “Election
commission officials should stop
taking bribes.”

Peace Ambassador and Union Parishad
Chairman Mr. Noor Sharifuddin Jewel mitigates
communal violence at Tarail, Kishorganj
April 2018

A group of youths from Bhaoal and
Kouli villages of Rauti Union of Tarail
Upazila engaged in a violent
confrontation over an issue of
controlling over a local cultural event.
Gradually, other villagers from these
two villages became engaged in the
confrontation. Police came to control
the situation. Unfortunately, 17
villagers were injured in the violent
confrontation, as were two
policemen. The situation became
worse when villagers planned to

The committee later heard the
arguments from both parties. Other
important community influencers
gave their opinions to establish continue the rivalry.

Peace Ambassador and Rauti Union
Chairman Noor Sharifuddin Jewel
intervened and resolved the conflict.
After first talking with the PPG
members of Tarail Upazila, he
contacted and spoke with local
political leaders. Everyone
responded positively. Mr. Jewel then
called a meeting between two
villagers, along with the Upazila
Chairman, several former Union
Parishad Chairmen and other
community leaders. The meeting
proposed a nine-member committee
to resolve the case.

peace and harmony.
Both the villagers signed a social
code of conduct, where they agreed
to:

  1. Nobody would make a physical
    attack in the future;
  2. Both sides will apologize
    publicly for attacking each
    other;
  3. There will be a five-member
    committee in each village, who
    will be active in the future to
    avoid conflict.

Peace Ambassador Md. Lokman Hossain mitigates
workers’ union clashes at Khalispur, Khulna
February 2018

Peace Ambassador Mr. Md. Lokman
Hossain is a member of a PPG and
a local businessman. Recently, he
mitigated a conflict between workers
and the owners of a local jute mill. In
February 2018, jute mills workers
organized a procession demanding
the formation of a wage commission

But the jute mills owners did not
agree. Unfortunately, Bangladesh
Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC)
officials and the administration took
the side of the owners. A conflict
developed. Considering the situation,
PPG member Mr. Lokman Hossain
intervened. He talked with the labor
union leaders and negotiated with
jute mills owners. Finally, they all
agreed to a settlement. Later, both
parties signed an agreement in
presence of the local administration
to avoid such conflicts in future.

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