KABUL -- In contrast to the objectives of the on-going sectarian violence waged by the Taliban and the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), Afghans of all sects are coming together to display unity and to defy terrorist acts.
The latest act intended to drive a wedge between Sunnis and Shia in Afghanistan was the ISIS attack on a Shia Hazara mosque in Herat that killed 33 people on August 1.
"I am a Shia, and yet I respect my Sunni brothers and I'm proud of them," said Sajjad Kabarzani, a 24-year-old student in Herat who lost his brother Hamid in the Herat mosque massacre.
"I deal with them at the university and in daily life," Kabarzani told Salaam Times. "We have no problems with each other. The bloodthirsty enemies of Afghanistan, however, want to sow discord."
Instead of fomenting division and discord, these attacks "strengthen the alliance among Sunni and Shia groups", he said.
"The passing of my beloved Hamid has left me hopeless," Kabarzani said. "However, I want to study. I want to fight extremism in Afghanistan through education."
Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, described the attack as "cowardly."
"The insurgents once again proved that they intend to disrupt Herat's public order through committing such cowardly acts but to no avail," he told Salaam Times.
Afghans must stand united
The Herat massacre was the latest in a series of assaults on Afghanistan's Shia population.
In June, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a crowded Shia mosque in Kabul that killed four people.
In November last year a massive suicide blast killed at least 27 people and wounded 64, also at a Shia mosque in Kabul.
In July 2016, ISIS claimed responsibility for twin explosions that ripped through crowds of Shia Hazaras in Kabul, killing at least 85 and wounding more than 400.
Afghanistan's national unity government strongly condemned the Herat atrocity, describing it in a statement as an "anti-Islam act".
It also called "on the Muslim people of Afghanistan, as well as on the religious scholars, to stand united against the barbaric actions of the terrorists".
President Ashraf Ghani, who visited survivors of the attack in Herat on August 4, said, "Terrorists cannot create sectarian divisions among our people."