Faith in mankind reaffirmed
"Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that," said iconic American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.
It is in this spirit that Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain chose to stay behind at Holey Artisan café on the fateful evening of July 1, 2016 at the mercy of armed Islamist terrorists, when most would have made a beeline for the exit.
That evening, the 20-year-old grandson of Transcom Group Chairman Latifur Rahman was a paragon of gallantry, selflessness, purity, friendship, and optimism -- confronting an adversary consumed by hatred and sadism.
The five militants' plan for the venue frequented by foreigners was loud and clear -- annihilating non-Muslims.
The diners were segregated on the basis of their ability to recite verses from the Holy Quran, which Faraaz was able to and was allowed to walk free.
But he stopped to ask if his two friends could come with him. His friends were Abinta Kabir, a US citizen of Bangladeshi origin, and Tarishi Jain, an Indian national.
The militants refused to let the two leave, so Faraaz stayed behind -- innocently sealing his fate.
The nation watched with utter horror, incredulity and agony as the five militants fended off attacks from the police and held the diners hostage overnight.
The terrorists went on to kill and maim the bodies of 20 hostages -- including Faraaz, Abinta and Tarishi along with nine Italians, seven Japanese, and another Bangladeshi.
The five militants were killed during the joint forces operation the next morning, bringing to an end a 12-hour standoff.
Faraaz, the younger son of Simeen Hossain and Muhammad Waquer bin Hossain, lost his life but stood out as a beacon of hope for generations that will continue to reaffirm faith in mankind.
His bravery and sacrifice has been recognised with several posthumous awards.
Faraaz was a student of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in the US. He came to Dhaka on May 18, 2016 to spend his summer holidays and was scheduled to return to the US a few months later.
On the fateful evening of July 1, he went to the restaurant to meet Tarishi and Abinta for a cup of coffee. During the siege, he made the unflinching decision to stay back with his friends in a situation that had only one possible ending -- death.
He remained staunch in the horrifying face of terror and death, proving with pride that humanity stands above all.
After the bloody siege in the Gulshan café, Faraaz became a symbol of friendship, hope and bravery. His sacrifice is being recognised across the world.
He was awarded the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice in November 2016. His mother Simeen and elder brother Zaraif Ayaat Hossain received the award in Mumbai.
The award, instituted in 2005 in memory of Mother Teresa, is the only one in the world recognised by the institution she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, Kolkata.
Receiving the award, Simeen said, "I wanted to raise my son as a good human being. Faraaz did not leave his friends, the people he loved, and he did not act like a coward."
"For you, Faraaz, I am the proudest mother in this world."
"When my son stood by his friends, including Tarishi who was an Indian, he represented true Islam while those who murdered them were monsters. I refuse to accept the terrorists were Muslims," she was earlier quoted by the Indian media as saying.
In an article in 2016, veteran Indian journalist and columnist Kuldip Nayar wrote, "Just as statues of Bhagat Singh have been erected all over India, Faraaz should also be remembered in the entire subcontinent and I am confident that people would name their sons and statues after him, not only in Bangladesh but also in India and elsewhere."
In recognition of his courageous act, PepsiCo INC in 2016 launched the annual "Faraaz Hossain Courage Award" for the next 20 years. The recipients are awarded $10,000, a certificate, and a plaque.
The purpose of the award is to recognise individuals for their acts of exceptional courage and empathy, the very spirit Faraaz showed.
Besides, his family set up the Faraaz Hossain Foundation which works for distressed people.
Faraaz was honoured with a place in the Garden of the Righteous at the Italian Embassy in the Tunisian capital, Tunis.
Milan-based non-profit organisation Garden of the Righteous Worldwide, with help from the Italian foreign ministry, took the initiative to set up the first Garden of the Righteous in an Arab country on July 15, 2016.
It hosts trees and memorial stones dedicated to five righteous Arab and non-Arab Muslims, one of whom is Faraaz.
The tree dedicated to Faraaz bears the inscription: "In Dhaka, he chose not to leave his friends and was murdered by the terrorists."
In March 2018, students of Rummo High School in Benevento of Italy planted a tree honouring Faraaz.
On the first death anniversary of her beloved son, Simeen said, "I always thought he was a bit weak, except that night when he proved me wrong. Undoubtedly, he was among the strongest ones in the world."
"But I could not imagine he would make me so proud," said his mother.
Faraaz's sacrifice sent out a message of true humanity throughout the world. He was indeed a silver lining to a dark cloud -- a bright star who lit up one of the darkest nights in the nation's history.