Understanding Youth and Violent Extremism in the Horn of Africa

Violent extremism is perhaps the greatest challenge for humankind in our time. Its unpredictable nature and facelessness makes it very challenging to confront. Recruitment and radicalization into violent extremism have mainly affected youth and children because of the unique vulnerabilities they possess. The lived realities of young people in contexts of violent conflicts are much more complex than the popularly propagated stereotypes suggest. Some young people may be both direct victims and perpetrators of violence, and others may be neither, who use their skills and resources to build resilience within themselves and their communities. Indeed young people can be a resource for peace or a source of conflict. On the other hand, faith communities are important in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) because of their unique institutional resources and ties with communities into which vulnerable groups to recruitment are embedded. They possess the ability to inspire positive change within families and in their faith communities including the youth to fight violent extremism. The positions of authority and credibility that religious leaders have, makes the case for faith group’s involvement even stronger.

On 31st January End Child Poverty facilitated a Validation Workshop for Qualitative Desk-Review and Analysis on the research: Understanding Youth and Violent Extremism in the Horn of Africa: The Role of Faith Communities. The workshop had a representation of faith leaders and youth representatives from thirteen(13) faith based organizations.

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The main objective of the desk review was to carry out an analysis and a mapping of the existing faith inspired-youth focused approaches and research on countering violent extremism within the Horn of Africa region. The preliminary process identified the existing gaps and informed both the topic and content of the planned full-fledged research undertaken by Arigatou International-Nairobi and her partners. The proposed research will seek to serve as a context-specific knowledge base aimed at creating awareness and understanding on faith communities (with emphasis on the young persons) as a resource in combating violent extremism in East Africa. Further, an interfaith approach will be taken to address the highlighted issues.

Notable concerns arising during the  desk review  were in response to a survey carried out seeking to find out;

  • To what extent are faith communities aware of the magnitude or impact of VE among the young people in the region?
  • Who are the faith groups and the faith-based youth groups engaging in CVE, and where?
  • In what ways have faith communities responded to CVE call in relation to the young people?
  • Are there attempts for joined action between faith communities and other actors?
  • Are there documented best practice from faith communities?
  • Do faith communities have a clear strategy and tools to counter Violent Extremism and its effect on the youth?
  • What are the drivers of radicalization into violent extremism and the approaches to countering and building resilience against them?
  • What roles do youth play in propagating and conversely, in CVE?
  • What challenges do faith communities face in CVE as it impacts youth?
  • Is there existing research or research processes on the same/similar topic and what gaps exist?

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