PROCHESTA’s current primary focus is Bangladesh that is home to nearly 165 million people the vast majority of whom are poor and many of whom live under hardcore poverty. As such, Bangladesh has received huge attention of local and international development and humanitarian activists, individuals as well as institutions, who are striving hard to eradicate poverty and improve quality of life and thereby stop or reduce human suffering. Notwithstanding tremendous development at the mercy of all philanthropists, obviously the poverty and human suffering still remain invasive due to some factors.
PROCHESTA profoundly appreciates remarkable contributions of all actors, but believes that the results and impacts of their efforts could be far better if aligned with certain perspective and approach pertinent to the special context of Bangladesh. PROCHESTA, taking into account the demographic and cultural realities of Bangladesh, has decided to supplement rather than alternate the efforts of all role-players by filling in the gap of contextually appropriate perspective and approach. PROCHESTA takes cognizance that Bangladesh is a faith-based society where people of all walks live in harmony with full allegiance to their respective religions. All religions, and particularly Islam which is the religion of the vast majority of Bangladesh’s population, deeply inculcate in the adherents the sense of upholding justice, peace, prosperity and betterment, and strongly command them to stand against injustice and human suffering.
Therefore, PROCHESTA believes, instead of merely working for good causes in purely secular perspective and approach and thereby overlooking, neglecting or opposing the religions that may well underpin such righteous activities, it is more prudent, efficient and effective to take advantage of religious perspective and approach. This is important particularly due to the fact that religious perspective and approach are inherent and deeply rooted in the hearts of adherents who are fully allegiant to their religions. Furthermore, religions generate strong emotional and spiritual awakening amongst the adherents in their daily life. Since Muslims constitute about 90% of the total population of Bangladesh, we can take an example of how Islam can play a leading role in the integrated development of the Bangladeshi society. In many verses of the Qur’an, Allah (swt) has commanded to do and promote what is customarily known as good (m’aruf) and abstain from and prohibit what is abhorred as bad (munkar). In fact many verses of the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) confirm that the rituals (‘ibaadaat) like daily five-time prayers and fasting in Ramadan are themselves aimed at, among others, as a form of training to motivate Muslims to promote m’aruf and enjoin munkar.
Muslims are closely attached to masjid on daily basis for five-time prayers. Bangladesh has nearly seventy thousand villages each having at least one masjid in addition to the cities that are full of masjids at every nook and corner. Every masjid has an imam who leads the prayer and is well respected and followed by the Muslims. At least once in a week time the imam, literally and terminologically means leader, has an opportunity to address the Muslims during the Jum’ah (Friday) prayer.
For Muslims not only the Jum’ah prayer is obligatory but attentively listening to the Jum’ah sermon (khutbah) is also an obligation. The khutbah is essentially aimed at to remind the Muslims and keep them self-motivated and activated on weekly basis in promoting what is good and forbidding what is bad.
Therefore, if taken in the right spirit, masjids can serve as centers for development activities, imams can be well trained in leading development activities and Muslims can be motivated by their attachment with masjids, loyalty to the imams and particularly through motivational Jum’ah khutbah whereby all people can participate, partner and take the ownership of development activities for the society. Similarly, the other religions and their centers of worshipping can be well utilized to integrate people of all faiths with development activities. PROCHESTA believes that faith-based (particularly Islamic in the context of Bangladesh) perspective and approach can be more efficient, effective and rewarding that has been overlooked or neglected thus far by the development players.