Imam Training Program

One of the key strategies in countering intolerant messages is engaging the Imams because they are influential opinion makers who have significant impact and outreach to the masses. In Pakistan, this can best be done through the moral and strategic engagement of Imams, who serve as not only religious but also community and civic leaders.

‘The Imam training program was designed according to the acute community demand, as there exist no standardized Imam development programs in Pakistan. The proposed Imam engagement initiative will utilize the grassroots reach of the mosque and the systemic messages of media to enhance peace building by reducing intolerance in Pakistani society and potentially curb ethnic and religious violence.

The project seeks to address the vulnerability and pervasiveness of religious narratives based on violence and intolerance at the community level. The project is targeting 18 districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) including Islamabad. Under this project, 300 mosque imams representing all major Muslim sect sects (Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl.e.Hadith and Shia) will be engaged within span of January, 2016 to July, 2018. The training action will be followed by an extensive community outreach campaign to promote local buy-in, an environment of openness to messages of peace and tolerance, and nurture a broader positive social change.

The major objectives of Imam Training are:

  • Capacity building and awareness raising program to engage mosque imams to address religious prejudices and discrimination by promoting cultural and religious diversity
  • To create Peace Champions that will sustain peacemaking, dialogue, community leadership, co-existence and sectarian reconciliation.

The initiative corresponds to promote inter-sect tolerance and respecting other religions by engaging the imams from representative major sects (Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl.e.Hadith and Shia). Engagement of Muslim religious leaders from various sects is a sensitive activity and PEF has put great efforts and resources to achieve the unprecedented results by this program.

PEF model has been successful in developing a strategic partnership and a wider level outreach with influential imams in different regions of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Baluchistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, FATA and Azad Jammu Kashmir. The imams from our workshops have returned to their communities with energetic, positive approach and conducted peace building workshops, seminar, poster competition, discussion forums and delivered sermons about tolerance, peace, necessity for their community to show respect to other faiths and about women rights.

PEF has developed manual “Training manual for Mosque Imams” that equip them with the skills including peace building, dialogue, critical thinking, community leadership, mediation, and reconciliation.

Outcomes of the Program:

The outcome of this project is expected in several key areas:

  • Reduction of misconceptions and distrust through in depth interaction among diverse group of imams.
  • To prepare cadre of imams who address their local contextualized issues through Friday sermons and community based programs that will lead to create enabling environment in the society where people live together regardless of ethnicity, linguistic and sectarian identity
  • Enhance the role of imam as community leader and mosque as community centre.

Our Partners

Project Model
Stages Project Deliverable Objective Status Outcome
1 Revise and finalize training manual for mosque imams Engaging experts to develop imam skills training manual that equip imams in skills include peace building, dialogue, critical thinking, community leadership, mediation and resolution of conflicts. The manual finalized in April, 2016 – Develop training design that help diverse group of imams to have deep discussion and dialogue with each other that lead to reduce misconceptions among diverse communities.
– Give them set of peace building skills to make them peace champions.
2 300 Mosque imams represent all Muslim schools of thought will be trained in 12 capacity-building workshops Engaging diverse group of imams leaders represent all major Muslim sect sects (Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl.e.Hadith and Shia) through capacity building program It will be expected to complete till December, 2017 – Mosque Imams are empowered in critical thinking, dialogue,
– Community leadership, mediation and reconciliation skills
3 Conduct two Advanced training workshops to make 50 peace champions from the pool of Imams Select and reengage diverse group of imams (most active, motivated and influential) represent all major Muslim sect sects (Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl.e.Hadith and Shia) through advanced training workshop to make them peace champions It will be expected to completed until January, 2018. Prepare network of peace champion in different district that disseminate the message of peace, tolerance, coexistence and dialogue through Friday sermons, social media and community based initiative of community engagement programs.
4 3 mutual learning workshops to evaluate interventions by peace champions at the community level Evaluate and analyse impact of community based initiative of community engagement programs (CEPs) It will be expected to be conducted during April, 2018 Analyse impact, challenges and way forward for future interventions
5 Conduct National Level Conference and present peace awards to 30 most influential peace champions to create awareness about peace-building mechanisms through the faith communities, showcase the work of its Peace Champions from madrasah and interfaith groups for larger dissemination and promotion. It will be expected to be conducted during July, 2018 It will help to determine future course of action based on ground efforts of multi-layer engagement of religious leaders
Achievement and Success:

“I have realized for the first time that my role is to spread peace, not divide people on the basis of sect and religion” Syed Ali Raza Naqvi, Jamia tul Kausar, Islamabad

  • PEF imam training program provides ground to establish a network of imam champions in different regions of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Baluchistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, FATA and Azad Jammu Kashmir.
  • Through community based initiative of Community engagement programs, the group of imam champions expanded their personal relations and built strong networks by developing respectful relations with the people with whom they have any disagreements.
  • The program provides ground to diverse communities to listen and develop understanding about each other that resulted to promote commonalities and reduce misconceptions among themselves.
  • The activities not only bridged the gap between different sects but also built trust on each other leads them to join other religious gatherings. For example; the religious scholars from different sects participated in Ashura processions organized by shia community and in milad un nabi programs by Barelvi communities. These activities have set an example for sectarian coexistence before the community.
  • The program enhanced the leadership capacity of imams that enabled them to organize various activities in their vicinity independently. Many of the imams inspired by PEF initiative and initiated some activities in their institutions. The mosque imams delivered Friday sermons on the subjects of peaceful coexistence, tolerance, importance of dialogue between diverse communities and conflict resolution.
  • A number of community based disputes were resolved by these imam peace champions by influencing the community members for this cause.
  • The mutual exposure visits to worship places by diverse group of imams, helped in breaking stereotypes and reducing misperceptions about other faiths.