Peacebuilding, Preventing Violent Extremism and Hate Crimes
Despite violent extremism and organized crime having become major threats worldwide, their effects on children have not been sufficiently understood or addressed. In fact, vulnerable youth and children — especially from underprivileged and conflict-affected areas – are often major actors in terrorism, gang violence and organized crime.
Protecting children from gang violence and organized crime: The role of faith communities
In Latin America, children and adolescents are not only hardest hit by organized crime and gang violence, they are also frequently blamed and punished for these crimes. Children as young as 12 can be legally incarcerated. Drug trafficking, glaring inequality, corruption and lack of opportunities have conspired to drive young people into gangs, drugs, prostitution, and extortion. In Sight Crime 2021 revealed that 38 cities of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world are in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), with eight of these cities being in Mexico.
Examples of GNRC’s projects to tackle gang violence and organized crime in Latin America
Our groundbreaking Regional Project for the Prevention of Violence against Children and Resilience Building (PREVENIR) provides spiritual guidance and psychological support to children and adolescents who are most vulnerable to targeting and recruitment by criminal gangs. Twenty-three members of the Alliance for the Protection of Children were involved in the design of the project. Fourteen of these members are faith-based organizations and Christian faith communities (Catholic and Evangelical) who will implement activities at the community level. Arigatou International (GNRC), Church World Service, World Vision and Tearfund head the taskforce that manages PREVENIR.
Project milestones include:
- elaboration of a directory of services and programs available in four countries for children and adolescent victims of violence; and
- the development of a “Guide for the Prevention of Violence Against Children” for use by member organizations and other faith-based communities in the sub-region. The guide provides strategies on protecting the public; preventing violent behavior among at-risk youth; and countering recidivism.
Preventing violent extremism In Kenya and Tanzania
Children and young people are the easiest targets for radicalization. Their impressionable minds make them vulnerable to recruitment by criminal gangs, armed militia, and religious cults. The rapid spread of extremist ideologies and widespread intolerance among young children and youth is made more alarming by the lack of relevant holistic interventions preventing their spread. Children have a right to live a life free from violence.
The GNRC’s efforts to prevent violent extremism focuses on children and young people because they are ‘clean slates’. We believe that by preparing them with skills for peaceful resolution of conflicts and differences while they are still young we can create a future where people of all religions, races and cultures can live together in peace and harmony.
Examples of GNRC’s projects on violent extremism
With sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 48% of global terrorism deaths (Global Terrorism Index 2022), the GNRC and its grassroots partners have designed several programs involving faith leaders, women, teachers, government officials, youth and children to tackle radicalization and violent extremism in the Horn of Africa.
The Community Resilience Against Violent Extremism (CRAVE) Approach
CRAVE works with youth and local communities in Kenya, Tanzania, and Somalia, via an interfaith participatory approach. Through training on peacebuilding and conflict-management; art and sports; interfaith discussions; and sustainable development projects in collaboration with Arigatou International’s End Child Poverty Initiative, CRAVE has helped communities heal, recover, and protect themselves from violent extremism.
Project examples under CRAVE:
Family resilience against violent extremism: Women leaders in informal settlements in Kenya’s urban centers are trained to work with elders, chiefs, faith leaders, teachers, and counselors/psychologists, to monitor and support children who are experiencing violence or at risk of being recruited into gangs.
Reintegrating former child soldiers in Uganda: The program takes a holistic approach to rehabilitating and reintegrating former child soldiers. Through dialogue, art, and music, forgiveness and reconciliation are encouraged. With support from GNRC and its partners, former child soldiers in Uganda established the Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED). The organization provides a platform for former child soldiers to help one another recover from trauma, develop job skills, and advocate for human rights and justice. The organization is led by former child soldiers who benefited from GNRC scholarships up to university level. YOLDRED is now helping other youth pursue further education. Some of these youth go on to volunteer as teachers and counselors in schools and villages, and even partner with other stakeholders including the government, in peacebuilding initiatives.
The Amani Kwanza project – Tanzania: The project works to preserve understanding, peaceful co-existence, and dialogue among Tanzanians. There have been many outcomes of the project. Youth and local leaders have been trained in good governance, conflict management and peace building. Through theatre performances, communities have received civic education. And the capacity of the local media capacities to contribute to peacebuilding and conflict resolution has been enhanced by a training module on peace journalism. Last but not least, faith groups, teachers, civil society organizations, government officials, local authorities, security officials, and the community at large have been educated on the rights of those living with albinism. Children living with albinism are now integrated in all activities to affirm their dignity and right to live without discrimination.
The Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism (BRAVE) approach
BRAVE works to empower the Muslim community and Islamic institutions in Kenya to counter the misconceptions and false narratives that promote radicalization and violent extremism.
Examples of projects under BRAVE include:
Deep Dialogue: A program for youth/children who are already radicalized, and/or those who have escaped from militant groups like Al Shabaab based in Somalia. Rehabilitation is carried out under complete anonymity so that returnees can reintegrate into their communities without risk.
Lenga Ugaidi na Talanta: This is an annual event in Kenya that seeks to develop the talents of vulnerable youth at risk of radicalization. Participation is voluntary and winners are awarded accordingly.
Stop Violence in Madrassas: Madrassa (religious school) teachers are trained on non-violent disciplinary methods and are educated on the harmful effects of corporal punishment on children.