Dear Mr. Nazir Bhatti,

By : Shadaab Kanwal

Religion has come to play a significant role in contemporary conflicts and violence that have contributed to grave and serious human rights violations, but religion is seldom the cause of conflict. The root causes of most contemporary conflicts are to be found in the inequitable distribution of economic resources and denial of political power sharing in governance.However religion is more and more frequently used as tool and a catalyst in the escalation of these conflicts. Religious symbols and idioms are often manipulated by political forces to promote their self-interests, thereby bringing the negative aspects of religion to the fore. The human rights of minorities and human rights of majorities are equally indivisible. The social and political rights of minorities that are denied are often those of the majorities as well. Also, it is important that the advocacy of religious liberty and human rights not function, and not be perceived, as a weapon of one religious community against another. Religious minorities caught in conflict situations often look outside for assistance. This appeal for intervention often stirs nationalist sentiments in the country thereby further alienating and isolating minorities and leading to further division and polarisation. The best way to overcome the present growing environment of religious intolerance and violence in Pakistan is through the vigorous promotion of inter-religious dialogue at international and especially at community levels. Such a dialogue should be promoted by both governments and religious groups through education and awareness-building programmes where members of communities are taught to respect each other’s religion and culture and to make a commitment to observe the rule of law, to respect democratic values and to promote good governance. In the midst of conflict, it is not easy for interreligious dialogue alone to build a culture of mutual tolerance and non-violence,The dimensions of this task are manifold, and in all of them religions have a crucial role to play together. Nowhere, however, is our concerted effort more urgently needed as in the address to international and internal conflicts in which religions are involved, or that are being fought in the name of religion. It is my sincere prayer and hope that in the dialogue we shall pursue in these days, and in close collaboration with the United Nations, we can strengthen the commitment to a culture of peace and in particular deny the sanction of religion to those who seek to make it a tool of violence. Sincerely, Shadaab Kanwal Phoenix, AZ

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