THE Pakistani diaspora in the UK - estimated to number more than
one million - was urged on Wednesday to stand up for
minorities in Pakistan, at the launch of the Connecting Communities
project at Westminster Abbey.
In the wake of a series of acts of terrorism in Peshawar,
including the suicide bombing of All Saints' Church (News,27
September), the organisers of the charity are urging people in
the UK to use their influence to promote peace and reconciliation
"Approximately thirty to seventy per cent of the diaspora
community still have links where they call once a week to
Pakistan," said Fiyaz Mughal, founder and director of Faith
Matters, the umbrella organisation behind Connecting Communities,
on Friday. "There is a strong link through telephony, money
transfers, and going back to the country to take a summer break
virtually every year. . . The Pakistani Government and people still
look up, rightly or wrongly, to Britain as a nation that they are
linked with umbilically. The link is still there.
"We can send a message from the diaspora in the UK, the majority
of whom are Muslim, saying to their Muslim counterparts, 'We are a
minority in Europe, we know what it is like to be a minority. This
means we need to stand up for others.'"
Mr Mughal said that there were plans to hold
community-engagement events, where dialogue would be facilitated,
"to get them to think about how they can work with local media to
send positive messages back to Pakistan". Participants would also
be encouraged to consider how, during visits in Pakistan, they
could use their skills to strengthen civil society there.
The launch event on Wednesday was addressed by the Rt Revd Lord
Williams, who, Mr Mughal said, was reported to have prayed for
Pakistan every morning during his time as Archbishop of
Sadiq Khan MP had spoken of the need for the diaspora not to be
lethargic and think it was the responsibility of Pakistanis, but
they had a duty to do something, Mr Mughal said.
Other speakers included Javid Khan, the chief executive of the
charity Victim Support, who had spoken of the need to give victims
dignity and honour, and Tafheen Sharif, deputy police and crime
commissioner for Bedfordshire, who had suggested that members of
the police could use their time in Pakistan to engage with local
Faith Matters has been working in Pakistan for the past three
years, running, among other things, a large-scale counter-extremism
project sending more than 100 million text messages to local people
to counter extremist narratives.
On Friday, Mr Mughal said that the reaction of Pakistanis in the
UK to events in Peshawar had been one of "shock and disbelief".
He said: "It reinforces that Pakistan is in state of real
destabilisation, and many of the Muslim community here were
completely taken aback by the level of violence in Peshawar. Many
here have also been touched by the violence, because many of the
Muslim communities have suffered deaths because of the bombing. It
has created a sense of 'We are all under attack,' and this degree
of empathy is starting to become stronger."