BECAUSE I COUNT
Because I Count is about engaging young people in interfaith dialogue that prevents the effects of religious marginalisation. The project works primarily with Christian and Muslim youth to promote joint actions among the youth of these two faiths that seek to counter violent religious extremism. The project works to create a safe and empowering space and environment at the Kenya YMCA project sites that enable young people to have dialogues among themselves and with their respective religious leaders on issues affecting them, including their risk to being radicalised.
Background Muslims in post-independent Kenya have been kept on borders of the national agenda, which has caused many to feel that they were not fully part of Kenya. This has exacerbated socio-economic challenges that affect young men and women from Muslim communities. Hence, it is vital to engage in coping strategies to secure a livelihood to avoid transformation of vulnerability to radicalisation. Within this context, radicalization is too often wrongly reduced to religious motives. Discrimination, stereotypes, prejudices about youth is a practical obstacle to the engagement of youth against VERLT. Un-educated, disenfranchised young men and women lacking a clear perspective to live up to their true potential, are vulnerable to VERLT. They may seek and find acceptance and appreciation in radicalized groups, which seemingly offers them a mission, a powerful alternative, and productive role. Lack of knowledge, trust and understanding fuels hate and extremism. Actual experience of interfaith and intercultural cooperation helps young people lose fear and gain trust. The securitization of religious communities further contributes to the increase of extremist behaviour since it creates grievances and feelings of exclusion, resulting in continuous exclusion from the rest of the society, fuelling a vicious cycle of hate and violence between religious communities. Sweeping generalizations and negative portrayal of religious communities lead to stigmatization and fear. On the other hand, anti-terrorist legislation on freedom of expression and the role of intermediaries (social media platforms, for example) in assisting authorities to regulate and record what is expressed in the digital world plays a great impact in the VERLT process. The AAYMCA is commissioned to empower Young People for the African Renaissance and this scenario is a huge concern that necessitates quick intervention. In order to effectively commit to the elimination of VERLT, it is crucial to invest more in prevention measures targeting young people, while including them in shaping of such measures. Cooperation and work towards mutual values of peace and stability will pave the way for longterm change. Without the participation of youth, the protection of youth is not as certain. Violent extremism among youth appears based on social bonding rather than ideological grounds. Young people may initially turn to violent extremist groups to find a sense of recognition, fellowship, and identity. It therefore calls for intervention at four levels: • Establishment of a progressive and sustainable interfaith dialogue for prevention of religious prejudice and conflict • Creating amenable youth spaces and platforms for continued multi-religious youth engagement for community action - Young people can have an active role in developing counter-narratives, countering discourse that contributes to VERLT • Effective dialogue by young people, civil society with the government on legal instruments for equal rights for peace and justice • Implementation of the AAYMCA S2C change model to improve the subjective competencies of young men and women in Kenya, offering them the opportunity to transform themselves and others to use their voice, take up appropriate spaces and influence positive change, while encouraging the creation of job and socio- economic security in general, which form a comprehensive framework of security. This project will provide safe spaces for interfaith dialogues but also facilitate skills development and enterprise trainings for youth. The AAYMCA also provides a platform for furthering the skills youth would have received through this project through further trainings in their vocational institutes and community action.
- An Interfaith Working Group was established consisting of representatives from United Religions Initiative, Think Place Kenya, Technical University of Mombasa, One Nation Under God, Accenture Consultants, the Pwani University, The Human Rights Agenda (HURIA);
- A research process began;
- 30 youth attended the economic empowerment training; and
- 3 table banking groups were established in Shauri Moyo Branch, Kilifi Branch and in Miritini under Mombasa Branch.