Religious leaders gather in Afghanistan’s north to strategize on peace

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MAZAR-E-SHARIF - Religious leaders from provinces across Afghanistan’s northern region gathered in the capital city of Balkh to strategize on institutionalizing the principles of peace at all levels of society, from the social to the political.

“As Islam emphasizes peace as a fundamental principle, we have a clear duty to showcase that,” said Mawlavi Abdul Sattar, a scholar from Samangan, during opening remarks at the event organized by the Mazar regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Afghanistan’s religious scholars, known as Ulema, play an important role in setting moral and ethical standards for their communities. They often work as peace brokers, and are respected leaders at all levels of society, exerting influence on local community decisions.

“Unity is important in Afghanistan, so that there is no room for the enemy to infiltrate society,” said Mohammad Shafi, a scholar from Jawzjan, during the discussion.

Toward the end of the meeting, which drew some 50 scholars from across the north, participants drafted a declaration indicating the importance of addressing the roots of Afghanistan’s conflict, and resolved to meet again to carry the conversation forward.

UNAMA has been working with local communities across the country, including with religious leaders, youth groups, women’s rights group, and other segments of Afghan society, to build support for Afghan-led peace and reconciliation efforts.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.

UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.