Human rights and Islam have often been at odds with each other in Afghanistan. EAI undertook a two-year program engaging communities to take action on human rights and tolerance-related issues in six provinces across Afghanistan.
A Project of —
Before, the similarity between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the teachings of Islam was not clear – but the workshop convinced me. And it occurred to me that we had forgotten the values of our religion. The concept of ‘community mobilization’ was introduced and it reminded me of the values of our Islamic religion. According to Islam, it is our responsibility as Muslims to share what we have learned with others.”
Shukrulla Mohammadi, Financial Manager, Youth Organization of Afghanistan
With funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, between 2008 and 2010 EAI launched a Tolerance Caravan. The program’s goal was to increase respect for Human Rights in Islamic communities in Afghanistan. Through training workshops, educational theater productions, public forums, local radio station capacity building and national radio broadcasts, EAI increased the level of conversation and collaboration on tolerance and human rights among its target communities.
The Tolerance Caravan program was designed to engage community religious leaders and local officials in discussions and training on the intersection of human rights and tolerance within the Islamic context in their own Afghan communities.
Tolerance Caravan held two-day events in six provinces of Afghanistan to promote leadership and action related to human rights within the context of Islam. Participants included government officials, community and religious leaders, and representatives from the media, higher education and civil society sectors. The two-day events were comprised of:
- Day 1: Day-long workshop for local government officials, community leaders, and influential figures;
- Day 2: A public mobile theater performance followed by a public forum, which united workshop participants with citizens and civil society members to identify human rights and tolerance issues, prioritize key issues, and develop “collective paths of action” to overcome them.
The events were covered by local radio FM partners in all target districts.
The Tolerance Caravan participants were all leaders from different sectors of the community where the workshops took place. Presenting the similarities between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and concepts found in the Koran greatly increased the likelihood that participants would see human rights as compatible with their existing beliefs. This “compatibility factor” makes it easier for opinion leaders to present the innovation to their peers and to the community. The inclusion of key opinion leaders, including prominent religious leaders, in the Tolerance Caravan workshop helped diffuse the workshop content. Linking human rights content to Islam rendered it more “compatible” with existing beliefs and thus more credible and acceptable.
“The workshop allowed each of us to express and discuss our ideas, one by one.” - Azira Khairandish, the Herat-based coordinator of the Civil Society Human Rights Network (CSHRN)
IMPACT & REACH OF THIS PROJECT:
Several Tolerance Caravan participants stressed the open and participatory nature of the workshop as a particular highlight. Our external evaluation also identified that the project helped influential leaders counter extremist messages in their communities.
In the workshop we had extensive discussions about human rights in the context of Islam. Before that the similarity between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the teachings of Islam was not clear – but the workshop convinced me. And it occurred to me that we had forgotten the values of our religion. The concept of 'community mobilization' was introduced and it reminded of the values of our Islamic religion. According to Islam it is our responsibility as Muslims to share what we have learned with others. Shukrulla Mohammadi
Financial Manager of the Youth Organization of Afghanistan (Kapisa office)