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UK diaspora ‘could hold key to peace in Pakistan’

25 October 2013

CONNECTING COMMUNITIES

New initiative: the Revd Rana Khan, the joint leader of the Connecting Communities project, with Lord Williams after its launch

New initiative: the Revd Rana Khan, the joint leader of the Connecting Communities project, with Lord Williams after its launch

THE Pakistani diaspora in the UK - estimated at more than one million - has been urged to stand up for minorities in Pakistan.

The call came earlier this month at the launch of a new project, Connecting Communities, at Westminster Abbey. In the wake of a series of acts of terrorism in Peshawar, including the suicide-bombing of All Saints' (News, 27 September), the organisers of the charity see people in the UK as vital to promoting reconciliation in Pakistan.

The project is co-led by the Revd Rana Khan, who grew up in Pakistan, and has worked as the international interfaith-dialogues assistant for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion.

"Here in the UK, we do interfaith dialogue for the sake of community cohesion; but in countries like Pakistan, interfaith dialogue is a matter of death and life. People of Pakistan heritage, Muslims and non-Muslims, can make a difference back in Pakistan. It is important that the experience of human rights, equality, and democracy does not remain here - that people of the Pakistan diaspora in the UK can send it back."

He pointed out that Mohammad Sarwar, once a Labour MP in Glasgow, has been appointed Governor of Punjab: "If British Pakistanis can send a governor, why cannot they send experience of good governance and equality back to Pakistan?"

Fiyaz Mughal, the founder and director of Faith Matters, the umbrella organisation behind Connecting Communities, said that there were "strong links" between the diaspora and Pakistan, by telephone, money transfers, and summer visits. "The Pakistani government and people still look up, rightly or wrongly, to Britain as a nation that they are linked with umbilically. 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.'"

The launch event was addressed by Lord Williams, who, Mr Mughal said, had prayed for Pakistan every morning during his time as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Faith Matters has been working in Pakistan for the past three years, running, among other things, a large-scale counter-extremism project, which sends more than 100 million text messages to people to counter extremist narratives.

Mr Mughal said that the reaction of Pakistanis in the UK to events in Peshawar had been one of "shock and disbelief. . . 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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