JALALABAD -- More than 1,300 religious scholars and madrassa students gathered at Sherzai Stadium in Jalalabad city to declare their support for the ongoing peace process and call on the parties involved to agree on a ceasefire.
A majority of the participants were religious scholars and imams from rural areas of Nangarhar Province.
"People can no longer tolerate this war," Maulawi Zia-ur-rahman Allahyar of Kunar Province said while addressing the gathering November 5. "The government and the Taliban should accelerate peace talks and take meaningful measures to reach a peaceful settlement."
A ceasefire is critical for intra-Afghan talks to continue, said Allahyar.
"Fighting is continuing right now in the provinces," he said. "The Taliban claim that they want to make peace while continuing the violence. This is not the solution."
"The Taliban must first agree to a ceasefire and then talk about a lasting peace," he said. "This war is not acceptable to us religious scholars. The Taliban have started this war of fratricide."
"Taliban leaders are sitting in Qatar talking about peace while ordering their fighters to increase violence [in Afghanistan]," religious scholar Sayed Baher told participants of the gathering. "What kind of peace and religion is this? This is not acceptable."
Attacks on education centres contradict Islam
The religious scholars also condemned the recent attacks on educational centres in Kabul, saying they violate Islamic teachings.
"We want our cities to be safe, so Afghans can go to schools and madrassas. So everyone can live and work as they please and the war is ended," Fakhria, a female religious scholar who attended the gathering and gave only one name, told the media.
"If we look at neighbouring countries, there is no fratricide there; they also practice Islam," she said. "Islam is not a religion of killing but a religion of peace."
Fakhria pointed to the November 2 "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) attack on Kabul University, which killed 22 people, mostly students, and injured 27.
"They were not teaching any non-Islamic topics there; they were training the new generation for the prosperity of Afghanistan," she said. "It is clear that it is not a war for Islam."
"Whoever has a basic understanding of Islam and is not ignorant will not destroy their schools and will not attack educational centres," said Sayed Waliullah, another religious scholar at the gathering.
"But this is the work of those who are indoctrinated by external intelligence agencies to destroy their homeland," he said. "We need to change this mentality by teaching patriotism in our universities and madrassas."