Exert your influence, UK Pakistanis urged

11 October 2013

CONNECTING COMMUNITIES

Dr Rowan Williams and the Revd Rana Youab Khan, co-lead of the project, after the launch at Dean's Yard, Westminster Abbey

Dr Rowan Williams and the Revd Rana Youab Khan, co-lead of the project, after the launch at Dean's Yard, Westminster Abbey

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 in Pakistan.

"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 Canterbury.

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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 forces.

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."

 

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