Violent extremism is a global threat. Across sub-Saharan Africa, groups like Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army have displaced millions and killed thousands. While the causes of conflict are many and varied, extremist groups use expressions of religious identity to recruit followers, spreading a distorted understanding of religion to justify their violence.
Any effective strategy to tackle religious extremism must start within the community. Requiring the support and initiative of influential and trusted religious and community leaders who often lack the training, resources and support to prevent the spread of extremist ideology. ‘Supporting Leaders’ equips, empowers and supports religious leaders to counter extremist narratives. Helping build social cohesion in their local communities.
Our pilot projects are designed to build up the skills and experience of religious and community leaders, increasing their capacity to identify and tackle religious extremism through counter-narratives and practical community action. Working with local and international institutions, to strengthen both individual and community resilience to extremist narratives. Since 2014 we have been supporting an effective network of religious leaders who are actively contributing to changing attitudes towards the ‘other’ in their communities. Creating stable societies by reducing religious violence and building mutual respect to enhance social cohesion.
Many religious leaders tell us that misunderstandings about religion, religious tensions and extremist narratives are the most significant obstacles to building social cohesion. With limited access to resources, a lack of adequate commitment and low educational levels exacerbating the problem. Our approach gives religious and community leaders the tools to strengthen intra- and inter-religious cohesion and counter violent extremist narratives.