Curbing violent extremism in children
By Peter Amine
Unarguably, there is urgent need to tackle inculcating extremist ideas into children, particularly those within the impressionable age, who could hardly distinguish between what is right from what is wrong.
Parents, no doubt, have great roles to play if this battle must be won. This is because they are the closest to the children who see them on daily basis, even at odd hours.
Parents are in a better position to detect changes in the children’s behaviour, as teenage years are exciting, but challenging time in which young people develop their identities, judgment and critical thinking skills and form important relationships.
To nib the problem of violent extremism in children in the bud, an NGO, Mercy Corps, through its project, Community Initiatives to Promote Peace (CIPP), recently organised a training in Plateau to equip parents on how to identify violent extremism.
Violent extremism refers to the beliefs and actions of people who support or use ideologically motivated violence to achieve radical ideological, religious or political views.
Extremism implies the use of ideologies that oppose a society’s core values and principles.
Many believe that the extremists recruit children of tender age to carry on their ideologies which often times lead to radicalisation.
Mrs Amina Bello, CIPP Gender and Inclusion Lead, who spoke, said that the train the trainer workshop was designed to equip parents and youth influencers, with skills to aid prompt identification of violent extremist ideologies.
According to her, the training will help to address the risk factors for recruitment by violent extremist groups, which will increase the use of positive parenting methods to build resilience to violent extremist ideologies.
She further said that the programme sought to promote peaceful coexistence and stability in Nigeria.
“Since the launch of CIPP in 2019, the programme has been empowering communities to prevent and respond to violence and violent extremism by strengthening key skills and relationships.
“It has been empowering communities to be able to foster enabling environment for peace.
“This parenting for peace initiative is designed to empower community actors to trigger and support conversations that reinforce positive parenting.
“It is also to mobilise the communities toward moulding the character of young people to promote equitable and peaceful society,” Bello said.
According to her, parenting for peace training workshops earlier took place in four states in the North-Central and North-West zones namely: Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Kogi states, which make up four out of the CIPP’s six key implementing states.
Lending his voice, Dr Joseph Lengmang, Director-General, Plateau Peace Building Agency, said that the family was an important unit when it comes to instilling the relevant values that will make a responsible society.
Lengmang said that the agency was identifying and supporting efforts that would deepen the peace process in the state.
“Our role is to work with wide range of stakeholders including parents, international and community organisations to turn things around to counter negative and toxic narratives in our society,” he said.
Mrs Mary Bature, who also spoke, reiterated that the family has the responsibility to check violent extremism in communities.
Bature in a paper entitled: ‘The role of family/community in preventing violent extremism,’ said that tips from the workshop would help greatly in tackling the menace.
She said that talking to children openly and regularly was the best way to help in keeping them safe.
“You might find it helpful to start with a family discussion to set boundaries and agree on what is appropriate, or you might need a more specific conversation about something you are worried about.
“Parents are encouraged to learn basic tips on how to access the internet and social media accounts managed by young people. Pay attention to your child/ward’s activities online.
“Constantly educate your child/ward about the negative and positive sides of the internet.
“They should be aware that people they come in contact with over the internet may be disguising and even deliberately providing misleading information that could expose them to danger.
“Caution young people against keeping secrets or listening to advice to keep secrets from their family members or close associates as this may expose them to danger and exploitation.
“Listen to young people and show respect for their views, while supporting them to visualise the implication of radical views,” she said.
The expert further advised parents to seek information and know their child/ward’s friends and their families. According to her, parent/child relationship is the foundation to keeping children safe and building their resilience to resist tactics of violent extremist groups.
She stressed the need for open communication between parents and their children to address vulnerability to violent extremism.
Mrs Fatima Suleiman, Executive Director, Islamic Counselling Initiatives Nigeria (ICIN) Learning Centre, Jos, in her presentation, stated that the triggers and root causes of violent extremism are complex, multifaceted, and intertwined.
But he said that they are seemingly linked to the effects of horizontal inequalities, historical, political, economic and social circumstances, including regional and global power control and influence.
Suleiman added that in conflict affected communities, socio-economic and political discrimination and marginalisation of ethnic or religious groups seem to increase the risk of violent extremism.
“Thus, governance deficits often promote breeding grounds for extremist activity. For example, the risk of non-state actors manipulating and luring vulnerable populations to violent extremism is considerably high in a context where the state’s weakness and inability to provide necessary support to the citizens to realise their fundamental rights is established.
“Same applies to families, particularly young members facing marginalisation, hardships and poverty, the use of a narrative of oppression to justify violence and recruit and motivate supporters is common among violent extremist groups.”
Suleiman said raising awareness to settle disputes without resorting to violence was key in curbing violent extremism.
She said that encouraging the celebration of diversity, peaceful co-existence and social transformation were other ways to promote peace and check violent extremism.
The executive director further said that terrorists and violent extremists were increasingly targeting women and women’s rights as an explicit tactic.
She added that gender-mainstreaming approaches were needed in order to accurately identify root causes, potential recruits, targets, and victims of violent extremism.
Rev.Fr. Blaise Agwom, Director, Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre, Jos, categorised the drivers of violent extremism into two – push and pull factors.
Agwom said that the push factors were conditions conducive to violent extremism and the structural context from which it emerged.
“They include: lack of socio-economic opportunities, marginalisation and discrimination, poor governance, violations of human rights and the rule of law, prolonged and unresolved conflicts, and radicalisation in prisons.
“The pull factors are individual motivations and processes which play a role in transforming ideas and grievances into violent extremist action.
“These include; individual backgrounds and motivations, collective grievances and victimisation, stemming from domination, oppression, subjugation or foreign intervention, distortion and misuse of beliefs,” he explained.