AHA! small grant recipients work to address specific impacts of COVID-19 in South Asia, with a focus on threats to social cohesion, the spread of hate speech and misinformation, and the pandemic’s distinctive religious and gender dimensions. This case review explores the impact and approach of one grant recipient, highlighting lessons for peacebuilding practitioners on possible ways to address hate speech among religious minorities in other contexts.
This case review highlights the activities of a civil society initiative to strengthen narratives centered on peace, tolerance, and social cohesion in Multan, Pakistan, in the context of the pandemic. Civil society groups are working to equip Pakistani religious and youth leaders to counter on/offline hate and build peace through dialogue and education. The Centre for Inclusive Governance (CIG), a nonprofit that focuses on social justice issues in Pakistan, is one such initiative. With support from an AHA! Project small grant, CIG established a participatory and interfaith committee, Multan Peace Forum (MPF), to increase their ability to counter the COVID19 related hate and discrimination against religious minorities in District Multan– Pakistan’s 7th largest city and one of the major cultural and economic centers of Southern Punjab. The committee is comprised of 20 members, with representation from all major religious groups, youth leaders, civil society, women, and lawyers. Its leaders come from both Sunni and Shia traditions, Christian and Hindu, and represent both women, and youth interests. The main goal is to discuss, review, monitor, and act on the existing state of hate and discrimination against religious minorities during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.