A Peace Building Commonwealth
CIFoRB hears the views of young people and parliamentarians from around the Commonwealth on this year’s theme of peace building and how much the Freedom of Religion or Belief can contribute.
Fifty-two countries came together in London this week to celebrate Commonwealth Day under the theme ‘A Peace-building Commonwealth’. Among those attending the celebrations were a group of young people from across the Commonwealth, from Nigeria and Kenya to Pakistan and Trinidad and Tobago. They were given the opportunity to discuss with parliamentarians the challenges of peace-building in their own countries as well as learning about and understanding other experiences such as the peace process in Northern Ireland.
The roundtable discussion was hosted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and afforded the young people a voice, and for many, the first time to be part of a democratic process where their opinions and ideas would be fed back to politicians in their respective countries.
CIFoRB joined the roundtable and spoke to both parliamentarians and the young speakers about the challenge of peace building and how Freedom of Religion or Belief might play a role.
Hon. Imran Ahmad MP, Bangladesh Parliament
Brenesha Cox, Turks and Caicos Islands
“Religion is very important but it can be divisive. In my country to achieve peace building, religious bodies need to encourage coexistence and understanding of various beliefs and cultural practices. The Turks and Caicos islands are predominantly Christian. One of the issues we have is accepting secularism and atheism. This is challenging for people now. The government needs to embrace multi faiths and all beliefs.”
John McCaul, Northern Ireland
“It’s important that church leaders from all religions in Northern Ireland especially from the Catholic and Protestant communities come together with politicians and civil society to work to bring the two communities; that is Catholics and Protestants together and resolve the outstanding differences. We also need to connect with more nations within the Commonwealth and outside it.”
Alizeh Kamal Syed, Pakistan & UK
“My extended family all live in Lahore. I am second generation Pakistani and live in London but go back to Pakistan regularly. For me, Freedom of Religion or Belief is central to Pakistan. We need to accept minority religions and be very vocal about it. The government hasn’t done enough to close religious schools where the main problems lie, particularly where the blasphemy law is involved. My hope for peace building in the Commonwealth is through sport. Sport has worked phenomenally well in Pakistan in bringing about positive cohesion and we could do this across the Commonwealth.”
Raliya Adbulkadir, Nigeria
“The problems we have in Nigeria are not really about religion at all but about personal interests and politics. Tolerance, respect, understanding and love play an important role in peace building.”
Hon Sarah Kityo Breeze, Central Region Youth MP, Uganda
“I am a Seventh-day Adventist. You can’t live in peace if you don’t respect a person’s religion or culture or political affiliations. There are fifty two tribes in Uganda but we all have a common goal which we are working towards despite our differences.”
Pictures: Credited to CPA Secretariat