Youth work can help tackle violent extremism
FOLLOWING events in Berlin and others before it we run the risk of fearing and hating whole cultures, faiths and nationalities because of the actions of a small number of individuals.
It is easy to feel threatened by anyone who appears different – refugees, asylum seekers or anyone with a background dissimilar to ours. We fear what we do not understand and hate what threatens us.
Extremist and radicalised behaviour are a threat to our security but there are many strands of extremism. We have a responsibility to remember that extremism and radicalisation do not just exist within one nation, community or faith group. In the UK, for example, we still face the threat of sectarian violence in parts of the country as well as far-right extremism. If the feeling of threat leads to radicalisation and extremism, then we need to look within ourselves and work out how we tackle it and prevent it taking root in other communities too.
We all have the potential to fear and stereotype and to then exclude, belittle or ridicule. Recognising the potential in ourselves to fear and hate is key to overcoming it. By doing so we minimise the opportunities for people to be radicalised as we create a community that embraces the differences in people.
Youth work has a particularly significant role to play in this. In May 2016, the Council of the European Union said the safe environment it provides can allow young people to feel a sense of belonging, give them positive peer influences and prevent negative peer pressure leading to violent radicalisation.
Youth work methods support young people to be themselves and part of a community, and to find positive ways in which to address the issues they are passionate about.
I run the Action on Sectarianism website for YouthLink Scotland (www. actiononsectarianism.info) and have seen how, given the opportunity to discuss their views and be presented with alternative options, young people’s attitudes change.
It is extremist views which validate violence. Let us not focus on who is to blame for these awful events. Instead we should focus on preventing it from happening again and creating a safer, more inclusive and accepting future for young people.