An independent think-tank

“Coexistence with different identities the way forward for peace”

4 March 2019

The way forward for peace in the country and beyond is accepting that there can be people different than us, and this difference is largely natural. Co-existence not only makes the country beautiful, but is considered a sure recipe for progress.

These thoughts came in a day-long discussion on “Coexistence with Multiple Identities”, organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), with a select group of people in Peshawar.

In his keynote address, chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology Dr. Qibla Ayaz agreed that conflicts involving states have often been given religious colours, because that is how people understand it to be. He said that in the age of globalization where people have to interact with those who are different, the way forward is learning how to coexist with each other.

Participants at a daylong dialogue said that a person’s identity, whether ethnic or religious or even national, is largely natural, carried since birth. It helps in associating people; even religions say that humans are born with different identities.

While it is often said all humans are equal, in practice, some groups end up being powerless and others powerful. Worst of all, there is often conflict among people of different identities. Participants explored why so: A sense of superiority of one’s identity from the rest often leads to attitudes that results in conflict, it was said. Others argued that narrow interests or fears can also drive people to resort to their identities, resulting into conflict.

Participants noted that increasingly people are resorting to their narrow self-identities, in particular ethnic and sectarian. They think they are discriminated because of their ethnic or sectarian identity.

Such thinking affect is felt on young generation too. In Pashtun belt, ethnic identity is taking a centre-stage, as younger generation thinks they have been intentionally marginalized over the years. Similarly, many have resorted to migrated from their ancestral lands to different parts of the country or even abroad.  Young people are often “stigmatized” for whatever is associated with any one ethnic or sectarian group.

Participants also noted that youth of the country are diverse too: The rights movement of ethnic groups is led by young men and women of that group, but at the same time, are also countered by youth of other groups, often through social media. This, participants noted, is not necessarily healthy always, as it can deepen mistrust about each other.

The group also unpacked the phenomenon of identity crisis, saying the issue today is often of “crisis within identities” as almost all groups have sub-groups contesting to the extreme with each other. While there is a majority-minority contest going on, within these groups too, there are internal conflicts.

The dialogue participants also noted that at the end of the day, it is about how the state manages internal diversity that coexistence can be found. Unfortunately, the state historically tilted towards one faith and one ethnicity, excluding voices of those who are less in numbers. Similarly, conflicts among states were also presented in religious context, which negatively impaired diversity in the country.

Participants of the dialogue included journalists, women rights activists, teachers, lawyers, social scientists, and religious scholars.

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