It is good to see candidates for Bahrain’s parliamentary elections putting issues like housing, education and public services at the top of their agenda – although we’ll believe their promises when we see the results!
However, there is a single existential threat facing Bahrain which poses a threat above all others and which – so far – few nominees have dared to mention.
As long as we are divided by sectarianism, Bahrain cannot exist as a unified and coherent entity. This threat is tearing our society apart.
Official reports show how clerics from both of Bahrain’s major sects have abused their prominent positions to spread sectarian discord in society. We only need spend a few minutes on social media to come across sectarian incitement and hatred of the worst forms.
We hope for a new Parliament that represents Bahrain’s diversity and heritage of tolerance and coexistence. But beyond this we hope for a Parliament that shows leadership in outlawing all forms of sectarianism and promotes a spirit of reconciliation.
In the future, when the current unrest is behind us and forgotten about there will still be Sunnis and Shias living together in Bahrain. Neither side can eliminate or marginalize the other.
If we look at the last few centuries of Bahrain’s history, throughout great political and social changes Sunnis and Shia have lived together and made this nation what it is.
According to King Hamad’s ammended constitution (the National Action Charter), all Bahrainis, irrespective of sect or faith, enjoy equal rights and freedoms. Our nation is one of the most politically and socially progressive in the region – so let’s fight to keep it that way.
The authorities have taken measures against those from both sects who have been guilty of incitement in the media, in the Mosque and in civil society gatherings, but this is only scratching at the surface of a much deeper problem that will take many years to address.
We have to learn again to live together and we need far-sighted people from both communities to reach out and bridge this sectarian divide.
So we call on all parliamentary candidates to put the issue of fighting sectarianism high on their agenda and stress their determination to work ceaselessly for a united and prosperous Bahrain.
Show your people that you love your country by stating your determination to work towards eradicating sectarianism.