Youth in Tanzania are turning away from extremism thanks to collaborative efforts by teachers and professionals who are mentoring students in their community through a leadership program organized by the Global Peace Foundation in Tanzania.

One volunteer mentor calls it an “engine of transformation,” slowly influencing young people through a sense of kinship to one another, across lines of tribe, religion, ethnicity. By focusing students on a shared, global vision and identity as part of “One Family Under God”, they can begin to focus on what they might achieve for their global family.  

“What you value and believe is very important,” said Annastazi Antony, the Vice President University of Dar Es Salaam. “Your interests and values are at the heart of who you are and will help lead you to careers that are right for you.”  

Rabia at youth workshop in Tanzania

Student, Rabia, shares about her experience on social media at youth workshop in Tanzania

The mentorships are creating positive connections where youth are able to safely explore their values and build important relationships with trusted mentors. Such connections are crucial as young people discover their value outside of their immediate families to connect to and engage with the community and eventually other nations and the world.

The leadership program led by Global Peace Foundation provides training in practical business and entrepreneurial skills, but also encourages youth to develop their moral and innovative leadership capacities through discussions and mentorship.

In many ways, a sense of belonging to and responsibility for the family, community and nation are at the heart of moral leadership. The desire to contribute to the greater good drives these leaders to develop skills and capacity to better serve.  Such a motivation helps students have goals and determination to drive sustainable development in their communities.

With the rapid advance if communication technologies and platforms, terrorist groups have been able to quickly and efficiently spread propaganda online through websites and social media. The real danger takes place in chat rooms and private messaging apps where one on one interactions can draw youth in. There are many ways extremist groups target youth: economic incentives, a sense of belonging and connection, empowerment, and a sense of adventure. Although many of the social media platforms are attempting to address these things, the extremists groups are highly motivated and are constantly seeking out new, unexploited tactics. As such, helping youth acquire critical thinking skills and offline engagement with their communities becomes critical to build immunity to what some refer to as the “siren call” of extremist groups.

Extremist prevention trainers highlighted common terms and methods used by extremist groups, including the exploitation of religious doctrines, fabricated “moral” arguments, fear of victimization and unemployment, revenge, or a sense of glory and heroism.

Young students show support for GPF , "Peace begins in the home"

Young students show support for GPF peacebuilding campaign “Peace Begins in the Home”

The Global Peace Foundation Tanzania program is combating these methods with robust, off-line, community engagement programs that reinforce the most important relationships in the family, schools, churches, and community. The program offers education on positive ways to use social media towards things such as reconciliation initiatives to heal clan grievances, and increase knowledge on proactive participation in the community and good governance.

By providing inclusive, offline platforms for exchange between a diverse, cross-sector group of moral, innovative leader with up-and-coming young mentees, GPF seeks to transforming the conversation around countering violent extremism. In challenging the exclusive, extremist narratives and then providing opportunities to transform their communities through service and sustained engagement, GPF hopes that the effort to combat violent extremist might also result in more vibrant, cohesive neighborhoods and communities around the world.

The original post appears on Global Peace Foundation. Global Peace Foundation is an international non-sectarian, non-partisan, nonprofit organization, which promotes an innovative, values-based approach to peacebuilding, guided by the vision of One Family under God.  GPF engages and organizes a global network of public and private-sector partners who develop community, national, and regional peace building models as the foundation for ethical and cohesive societies. Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon is founder and chairman of the Global Peace Foundation.