The Connecting Communities project is based on the ideas of enhancing, focussing and activating the power of communities who are of Pakistani heritage, and who are citizens and permanent residents of the United Kingdom. We are all aware of the enormous skills, energy possessed by diaspora communities of Pakistani heritage, the passion that many have for Pakistan, and their role in creating positive change for the country. With about 1,125,000 people in England and Wales of Pakistani heritage, there is a huge pool of individuals who can be help spur social change in Pakistan. We are looking to launch the Connecting Communities project so that it promotes the following message in news media in the UK and Pakistan:
‘Reinforcing and highlighting the importance of minority rights through interfaith activities, using religious- and community-based media messages, from the UK to Pakistan, and thus combating extremism and religious violence’
Persecution in Pakistan
We are all aware of the persecution and oppression directed against religious minority communities in Pakistan, whether they are Christians, Ahmaddiyas or Shias. Now is the time to ensure that British Asians of Pakistani heritage can play an influencing role for the new administration.
Particularly concerning to us is the way that some in Pakistan are targeting Christians for particular scrutiny and hatred. They are increasingly viewed not as Pakistanis, but primarily through the lens of their faith, which, together with the view promoted by some that Christianity is somehow alien to Pakistan, puts them in a very precarious position. With the new administration in Pakistan currently taking on the mantle of power, Pakistan is therefore in an uncertain and fragile position, with a few other civil society groups in the country already lobbying for the protection of minority rights.
Furthermore, through the project that Faith Matters is carrying out in Pakistan, (Musawaat), it is clear that a programme which uses UK media enthusiasm to inform Pakistani media, and which can enhance the grass roots action of Musawaat, is needed to ensure the maximum impact of the project. From our fieldwork in Pakistan over the last three years, one potential resource that has been noticeably untapped has been the ability of diaspora communities in the UK to promote positive messages and ideas of change, that can correspondingly promote minority rights in their home country. The Connecting Communities project seeks to fill this void. A fresh new approach is needed and it is this gap that the Connecting Communities proposes to fill.
Objectives of the Connecting Communities Project
– To promote, first and foremost, equality and security for minority faiths and communities in Pakistan, by making use of international and diaspora links in the United Kingdom;
– To motivate, focus and engage in grassroots discussions on issues affecting Pakistan, and how diaspora communities can assist. 8 regional discussions will take place across the UK, with at least 60 attendees per session. Key speakers will frame the issues at stake, leading to facilitated group discussions among the attendees;
– To ensure that Christian and Muslim faith leaders in the UK promote joint social action calls on issues of relevance both in the UK and Pakistan, with the aim of underlining issues of equality in both countries;
– To target national and satellite media sources, so as to promote minority rights with voices of religious tolerance and moderation in the UK and to influence media reporting in Pakistan;
– To ensure two-way media, societal, and faith-based discussions between the UK and Pakistan.
Most of these activities will take place in the United Kingdom, using the activities in workshops, discussions, and follow-ups to raise awareness about the campaign among media sources in Pakistan.