PESHAWAR -- A German NGO is teaching different religious communities in Pakistan how to avoid conflicts, the NGO's officials told Central Asia Online.
World Relief (WR) Deutschland teaches peace-building and coping with post-disaster scenarios.
"WR envisions the transformation of the most vulnerable people ... with the partnership of local communities," WR Project Compliance Manager Nayyar Mushtaq, of Peshawar, told Central Asia Online.
The project is meant to increase the capabilities of religious communities to serve the most vulnerable elements of society, he said.
WR works to improve water and sanitation services, hygiene, shelter, employment, health care, and other parts of society, he said.
'Faith Friends for Peace in KP'
WR May 19-20 in Peshawar organised a training session under its "Faith Friends for Peace in KP [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa]" programme. The programme seeks to foster trust among Pakistan's many religious communities.
Rescue 1122, a KP emergency response service founded in 2010, conducted the training.
"The objective of the session was to create an enhanced inter-faith network ... to defuse potential conflict before violence," Mushtaq said.
"We want to further strengthen the bond among [the communities]," he said, adding that mutual understanding is required for survival of all groups and for inter-faith harmony.
Minorities who choose to live in Pakistan need the chance to gain confidence and to form connections with other communities to build peace, he added.
At training sessions like the one held May 19-20, members of minority groups and of the Muslim community sit together to discuss the issues facing them, he said.
Such sessions provide the invaluable opportunity of a face-to-face meeting, Muhammad Jehangeer of Peshawar, WR peace-building officer, told Central Asia Online.
Involving women in peace-building
WR also arranged training sessions for women from religious minorities and the Islamic community in Bannu, Swat, Mardan and Dera Ismail Khan, KP, Jehangeer said.
WR was encouraged to see that want to be involved in peace-building, where they can play likely a greater role than men because of women's position in social fabric, he said.
"We want women to come forward and stand besides men in peace-building," he said.
"Society is like a structure that derives its strength from the binding force of core components," Baba Gurpal Singh, a Peshawar-based social worker and peace committee member, told Central Asia Online. "Society must shun differences .. and instill tolerance."
"We, who often act as a peace builder in families, should perform the same role in daily life," he said.
Joining efforts to counter terrorism
The Sikh community in Pakistan today is descended from those who chose to move to Pakistan in 1947, leaving their houses and properties behind, Singh said.
Sikhs in Pakistan "consider ourselves an integral part of society", he added.
"I have started a school in a gurdwara [a Sikh temple]," he said. "Besides Sikhs, Hindu and Muslim children attend it."
The objective of the school is to build trust among the various religious communities so they can live in peace, he added.
Sessions like the one in Peshawar May 19-20 will help reduce misunderstanding and animosity through interaction, he said.
"The nurturing of mutual trust and confidence ... is needed to galvanise communities for peace-building," Peshawar schoolteacher and Christian community representative Aamir Shahzad told Central Asia Online.