Community leaders call for peace at UN-backed symposium in Kandahar
KANDAHAR - Peace remains the top priority for Afghans, said religious scholars and other community leaders gathered at a UN-backed event in the southern province of Kandahar.
The symposium, organized by UNAMA’s Kandahar regional office, drew scholars, elders, provincial authorities and other community leaders to discuss ways to build social cohesion in the interest of ending the country’s longstanding conflict.
“Rule of law, human dignity, quality of life for all Afghans and strong relations with the world are all important issues to discuss in any peace efforts,” said Haji Agha Lalai Dastagiri, Kandahar’s deputy governor, as he framed the discussion in opening remarks. “We must respect human life and values.”
Other participants expressed similar views as they exchanged ideas about the main factors contributing to the conflict in Afghanistan’s southern region and across the country, and as they strategized on the best way forward in advancing peace efforts.
“The conflict continues to cause the suffering of the Afghan people and it must come to an end,” said Malim Sardar Mohammad, an elder from Kandahar.
In the wide-ranging discussion, participants from the southern province stressed the importance of intra-Afghan dialogue as crucial for any efforts related to advancing peace.
“Elders, religious scholars, academia and youth can be important players in peace efforts,” said Mawlwai Ubaidullah Faizani, head of Kandahar’s council of religious scholars. “Their perspectives would be very important if brought to the table.”
Afghanistan’s religious scholars, known as Ulema, play an essential role in setting moral and ethical standards for their communities. They often work as peace brokers and are respected at all levels of society, exerting influence on individual and community decisions.
At the conclusion of the lively discussion, participants endorsed ongoing efforts – inside the country and abroad – to end the conflict in Afghanistan. Together, they resolved to carry the event’s conversation forward to promote peace and social cohesion among their respective communities.
Following the symposium, Kandahar deputy governor Dastagiri extended the peace discussion online, where he posted highlights of the meeting on his Facebook account.
UNAMA continues to work with various institutions and individuals, including religious scholars, provincial councils, youth groups, women’s rights organizations and local media stations to create platforms – using radio, social media and television – for Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.
At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussion and debate for later rebroadcast, but also create new programmes around the issues that are raised, extending the discussion and creating new opportunities for local voices to be heard on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency, human rights and rule of law.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.