Sectarian violence has long been – and remains today – a major roadblock to Pakistan’s and South Asia’s peace and prosperity. Given the tumultuous relationship between India and Pakistan, their possession of nuclear weapons is particularly concerning. Ploughshares Fund grantee the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding recently completed a pilot project in partnership with the Peace and Education Foundation in Islamabad, Pakistan to address sectarian violence head on.
They gathered together 25 participants – educators, human rights activists, religious clergy, journalists and theater leaders – to develop and implement various community projects. While all five groups produced notable outcomes, two stand out: the journalists and the religious clergy.
The journalists published 35 articles on sectarian violence, one of which successfully caught the attention of the anti-Shia organization Sipah-e-Sahaba, whose spokesperson reached out to discuss and better understand the differences and issues at stake. Meanwhile, the religious clergy conducted a groundbreaking joint religious ritual with members of two sects, Barelvi and Deobandi. The Barelvi congregants stated afterward that this was the first positive engagement they had had with the Deobandis and it changed their perception of the sect.
Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and other organizations in the region are successfully demonstrating the power of civil society in shifting perceptions and addressing sectarian violence. With their help, we hope to prevent nuclear armed conflict in the region.
By: Cara Wagner
Photo: View from a tomb in Maki, Thatta, Pakistan. Flickr / umairadeeb