In­ves­ting in chil­dren to stop the scour­ge of ex­tre­mism

Th­rough edu­ca­tion young peo­ple can be ma­de awa­re of how they’ll be used and ex­ploi­ted by the peo­ple who pre­tend to ca­re for them

La Jornada (Canada) - - ENGLISH SECTION -

Chil­dren’s rights ad­vo­ca­te Ma­rian Wright Edel­man said, “The ques­tion is not whet­her we can af­ford to in­vest in every child; the ques­tion is whet­her we can af­ford not to.”

When we don’t in­vest in our chil­dren, the re­sults can in­deed be di­sas­trous.

Nor­we­gian film­ma­ker Dee­yah Khan re­cently ma­de a do­cu­men­tary ca­lled Jihad: A Story of the Ot­hers. Khan seeks to un­ders­tand why young men of her re­li­gion li­ving in Eu­ro­pe get in­vol­ved in vio­lent ex­tre­mism. It was qui­te a cha­llen­ge for her - as a Mus­lim wo­man in­vol­ved in the arts, she was of­ten a tar­get of ha­te cri­mes her­self.

What Khan dis­co­ve­red sur­pri­sed her. She found di­sen­fran­chi­sed young men caught bet­ween two cul­tu­res. They didn’t feel li­ke they fit in anyw­he­re and so they li­ved wit­hout ho­pe. Many had been abu­sed or ne­glec­ted as chil­dren. So they be­ca­me vul­ne­ra­ble tar­gets for jiha­dists, who of­fe­red them the things no one el­se of­fe­red, things they cra­ved: be­lon­ging, sig­ni­fi­can­ce, pur­po­se and ac­cep­tan­ce.

The pro­fi­le of the­se Mus­lim ex­tre­mists is al­most iden­ti­cal to that of mem­bers of whi­te su­pre­ma­cist groups and cri­mi­nal gangs. The­se young peo­ple, es­pe­cially men, feel li­ke so­cial out­si­ders, that their fa­mi­lies don’t u un­ders­tand them, and that they ha­ve no fu­tu­re o or pur­po­se. They ea­sily fall prey to the lies of h ha­tred, ex­tre­mism and vio­len­ce.

How do we keep this from hap­pe­ning? Edu­ca­tion is key. Young peo­ple need to be m ma­de awa­re of the dan­gers of such li­festy­les and h how they’ll be used and ex­ploi­ted by the peo­ple w who pre­tend to ac­cept them and ca­re for them. W We’ve seen re­duc­tions in gang vio­len­ce whe­re s such edu­ca­tion pro­grams exist.

But for the­se pro­grams to be ef­fec­ti­ve, we n need to meet the mo­re basic needs of our youth. W We need to ac­cept them for who they are, ce­leb bra­te their gif­ted­ness and gi­ve them ho­pe.

Com­pa­red to many ot­her coun­tries, Ca­na adian schools do a good job of mee­ting the n needs of many of our at-risk young peo­ple. Pu­bli licly-fun­ded schools, for exam­ple, are the great e equa­li­zer, gi­ving re­cent im­mi­grants the op­por­tu tu­nity to be­co­me a vi­brant part of Ca­na­dian so­cie ety whi­le em­bra­cing their eth­nic he­ri­ta­ge. The­se s schools are al­so get­ting bet­ter at mee­ting the n needs of tho­se from cul­tu­res that ha­ve been ne­gle lec­ted and op­pres­sed for far too long, es­pe­cially a abo­ri­gi­nal chil­dren.

Still, much mo­re needs to be done.

As our schools im­pro­ve to meet the needs o of each child in an ever-chan­ging world, young m men es­pe­cially will no lon­ger be drawn to vio­lent o or­ga­ni­za­tions fue­lled by eth­nic ha­tred or ot­her li lies. They will ce­le­bra­te their good­ness and the good­ness of ot­hers, and sha­re their gifts for the be­ne­fit of all.

So­me may call me an idea­list, but I’ve been wor­king in the tren­ches with at-risk youth long enough to see that we are ma­king a dif­fe­ren­ce. The­re are ca­ring and com­pas­sio­na­te staff and stu­dents in our schools who are hel­ping to im­pro­ve things.

The key to ma­king the world sa­fer, to sig­ni­fi­cantly re­du­cing the th­reat of te­rror in in­crea­singly mul­ti­cul­tu­ral so­cie­ties, is not grea­ter se­cu­rity. It’s not kee­ping out peo­ple who are “dif­fe­rent” or buil­ding mo­re se­cu­re pri­sons.

The key is to in­vest in edu­ca­tio­nal sys­tems that stri­ve to ce­le­bra­te di­ver­sity and ma­ke su­re that every in­di­vi­dual knows they are sig­ni­fi­cant. It’s in lis­te­ning to our chil­dren when they call for help. It’s in ma­king su­re we ha­ve the mind­set and the re­sour­ces to help each sa­cred per­son achie­ve their grea­test po­ten­tial.

When we in­vest in every child, we all be­ne­fit. -TROYMEDIA

Gerry Chi­diac is an award-win­ning high school tea­cher spe­cia­li­zing in lan­gua­ges, ge­no­ci­de stu­dies and work with at-risk stu­dents.­jor­na­

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