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Flourishing together

People from different faiths work together to promote understanding and harmony in Pakistan

Written by Nayyar Mushtaq and Tabita Shamshad 2023

 A large group of Pakistani men and women from different faiths stand in a circle and hold criss-crossing bits of string as an illustration of peacebuilding

At an event in Pakistan, people from different faiths use string to demonstrate that we are all connected, regardless of belief and social status. Photo: Diocese of Peshawar

In Burundi, a smiling man stands in the middle of a group of seated women who are dressed in colourful clothes

From: Peace and reconciliation - Footsteps 121

Actions we can take to help build peace and foster reconciliation in our homes and communities

Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, has a predominantly Muslim population, but Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other minority faith groups have also been living in the city for generations. Mosques, churches and temples are located in close proximity to each other, but their coexistence is fragile. 

The Flourishing Together project aims to increase peaceful coexistence and tolerance of different faiths. Together, we are seeking to break religious stereotypes, promote mutual respect and enhance mutual understanding.

Faith friend groups

Naeem is a senior Muslim cleric serving as a Khateeb (preacher) in Peshawar. He says, ‘We can see that there is a great gulf between the faith communities and misunderstandings on all sides. Christians are increasingly perceived as alien and non-compatible with our culture.’

‘Together, we are seeking to break religious stereotypes, promote mutual respect and enhance mutual understanding.’

In 2022, a social mobiliser from Tearfund’s local partner met with Naeem. He explained to Naeem the vision of the project and demonstrated how the partner organisation is working with multi-faith communities for the promotion of social cohesion and peace. 

Being a prominent religious figure, Naeem was unsure how his community would react to his participation in such a project. However, in October 2022 he became a member of a faith friend group and attended the project’s peacebuilding and conflict-resolution training. 

Faith friend groups are local networks made up of representatives from different faith communities including religious leaders, community members and young people. They play a crucial role in bringing communities together for peacebuilding and they advocate messages of peace and social cohesion. They also help people to put their peace commitments into action.

Naeem says, ‘Before attending the meeting, I was convinced that peacebuilding activities were about converting people to other faiths. But after attending the meeting I realised that this particular group was genuine in its agenda and efforts and I decided to become an active member.’ 

Naeem began promoting social cohesion in both official and unofficial ways, and bringing like-minded clerics and Islamic seminary students to peacebuilding events.

Five Pakistani men from different faiths stand in a row and one man holds a large sheet of pink paper with writing on it

During peacebuilding and conflict-resolution training in Pakistan, young people and leaders from different faith groups present their ideas on how they can collaborate to create harmony in society. Photo: Diocese of Peshawar

Breaking barriers

However, transforming deep-rooted beliefs and stereotypes takes time. During one faith friend group meeting held in a church, Naeem did not initially show up. The hosting pastor spoke to him and realised that Naeem was unsure about entering a church building. 

Naeem told the pastor about past experiences of being scolded by his father for expressing curiosity about Christianity, and being threatened by a Christian security guard when he attempted to enter a church. These incidents left a lasting impression on Naeem, making him believe that coexistence would be difficult. 

Having listened carefully, the pastor smiled and asked Naeem to follow him. He took him inside the now empty church and showed him the inside of the building. Standing in the centre, the two men talked at length about faith, beliefs and practices, finding many areas of agreement. 

Deeply touched by this positive attitude and unusual experience, Naeem asked as many questions as he could think of. Both men listened carefully to each other and avoided being offensive or judgemental. They felt that invisible barriers had been broken and were greatly encouraged by this honest exchange.


Written by

Written by  Nayyar Mushtaq and Tabita Shamshad

Nayyar Mushtaq is a Project Coordinator and Tabita Shamshad is a Programme and Communication Assistant. Both work for Tearfund in the Eurasia and North Africa region

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