Muslims gather for peace, tolerance and solidarity in Bangladesh

Thousands of the faithful fulfill their spiritual thirst on the banks of the River Turag
Muslims gather for peace, tolerance and solidarity in Bangladesh

Tens of thousands of Muslims throng the grounds of Bishwa Ijtema at Tongi, Gazipur district, near Dhaka, to join Friday prayers on Jan. 17. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)

Muhammad Alimuddin and his friends took a 12-hour bus journey and traveled more than 400 kilometers from Tetulia in Panchagarh district to Tongi in Gazipur district.

They braved the chilly winter weather with one purpose — to join tens of thousands of fellow devotees at Bishwa Ijtema (World Gathering) on the banks of the River Turag, about 22km from Dhaka.

This annual congregation is the second largest Islamic gathering in the world after the hajj in Mecca.

Like fellow Muslims, Alimuddin and his friends defied all the odds — little food and water, sleeping in makeshift, overcrowded tents and the cold bite of winter — yet they looked refreshed and happy last Friday as they walked in the seemingly endless line of Muslims in skullcaps headed for the special prayer service.

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