Disaster and Peace

By Bonnie Price Lofton | August 4th, 20119 comments

Mohammad Ishaq Israr used to be a schoolteacher. But in 2005, when northern Pakistan was devastated by a major earthquake, Ishaq rushed to help and decided, after three months, that he was better suited to disaster assistance than to teaching.

That’s what Ishaq was doing when he met Ali Gohar at a conflict resolution training sponsored by JustPeace International. Ali, who was growing his organization to its current level of eight staffers, recognized Ishaq to be a bright, well-motivated man, with a kindred spirit. Ali brought Ishaq aboard in 2008 and began training him in mediation skills, restorative justice, conflict analysis and trauma healing.

In the summer of 2010, Ishaq’s old skills in handling natural disasters were suddenly needed again. Flooding affected 20.4 million people in Pakistan — more than the total number affected by the 2004 tsunami, the 2005 hurricane in New Orleans, the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

“We diverted all of our funds and ourselves to disaster assistance,” said Ishaq. “You can’t talk to people about dispute resolution when they are in the water!”

On May 13, 2011, JustPeace broke new ground by holding an interfaith seminar, with Hindu, Muslim and Christian participants. The seminar participants all agreed that the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan was deplorable, but Ishaq said Ali sought to show them how they could work together to ease some of their problems.

For instance, one group of 40 or 50 Christian households was suffering from contaminated water supplies that the authorities refused to fix. Ali said, “Well, how much will it take to fix this problem?”

Mohammad Ishaq Israr. (Photo by Lindsey Kolb.)

The answer was 10,000 rupees. And Ali replied, “There are 70 to 80 of us here today. I am putting in 5,000 rupees – anyone want to join me?” Within 25 minutes, about 5,000 rupees had been collected to fix the water supply.

In each village, JustPeace International tries to ensure that the Muslahathi committee, made up of volunteers working from the police station, includes at least one representative of a minority group from the area, along with, if possible: a lawyer, social worker, religious scholar, retired police officer, retired revenue officer, and a number of women, with the goal of having at least one woman for every five men.

One of Ishaq’s favorite cases involved a “punishment” whereby a young boy who did property damage had to read the newspaper to unschooled elders in the (Hujra) traditional community center each evening. After his three-month sentence was over, the boy happily opted to keep reading to the old men.

Ishaq says such interactions may help restore the kinds of community relations he recalls from his childhood 25 years ago: “Each village used to have a community center – basically one open room – where people would often eat together, play cards, games, and music, tell stories, and monitor the activities of the children. A traveler passing through was welcome to sleep there as our guest. I used to love to play marbles there.”

More: Restorative Councils Help Pakistani Police

In late spring 2011, Ishaq came to EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute to take courses on restorative justice and on monitoring and evaluation.

9 Responses to "Disaster and Peace"

  1. Naveed Qamar says:

    No doubt that Mr. Ishaq is a dedicated peace volunteer BUT still did not find any opportunity to materialize his approaches to achieve the great cause of Peace & Harmony in his native land.

    All my best wishes with him to come his dream true and we might be able to live peaceful and prosperous life

    • Ishaq Israr says:

      Mr. Naveed, Thankyou for comment, Alone I am nothing but togather when become team, we can make it. and InshaALLAH soon our generations will observe the change.

      • Ishtiaq Khan says:

        Mr. Ishaq Israr, I should say as a Nation we proud of you. These are one man efforts for peace with very limited resources, who contributed in organizing communities at grass root level in his country. I remember his first visit to central districts, when he was collecting information about various conflict and dispute cases. Many CSO officials and community elders were wondering what he is doing and what will be his next step? But with in few months he resolved those cases through dialogue with involvement of communities. and then when Musalihati Committees were established. I must say those were Mr. Ishaq and Ali Gohar efforts that in very little time more than 80 police stations were covered and 3500+ cases were resolved with in a year.
        I wish he become part of Policy making in Pakistan, then he will be able to materialize his approaches to address militancy issues. I am sure he can do that because he is energetic and gifted with bright mind.

  2. touseef ahmad says:

    i am proud of u sir and to b proud that you are my ex teacher
    you are a great men best of luck and i will pray for you that God bless u sir :)

  3. Sani Suleiman says:

    My dear good friend Ishaq and Israr, nice to see you on the Peace builder of the Justice and Peace centre. I always admire you and your contributins at EMU your committment and effort in promoting peace and adressing disaster related issues even in the midst of challenges in your country is commendable keep keeping the good work! People like you are needed!

    Sani Suleiman- Jos Nigeria

  4. Goshi Aneela says:

    Truly, I appreciate all of your great efforts and hard working.
    May God Bless You All Time!
    May God Give You Great Success! Ameen.
    BEST OF LUCK !

  5. Cristiana Baptista says:

    My dear friend,
    I am so proud of you and so happy that we had met. The world is a better place with you!
    A big hug from Brasil,
    Cristiana

  6. Lois Carter Fay says:

    It was a pleasure to host Ishaq during his training at EMU this summer. My husband and I learned a great deal about Pakistan, and Ishaq learned about our culture. What an experience!

  7. Javeria Habib says:

    Hi,
    I am really feeling proud that we do still have some peopl who care about country, humanity regardless having concerns about religions. You did a great job and still doing. Keep great work up.It’s always been a pleasure that I know a nice person like you.
    May Allah belss with you with more power and energy to do more for humanity and Pakistan!Ameen