Ateneo Social Development Council organizes SUGPAT Youth Talks 3 on youth vulnerabilities to violent extremism

Seeing the need for educating grassroots communities about the issues on violent extremism in the city, Ateneo de Zamboanga’s Social Development Council (SDC) invited an esteemed researcher from the Institute of Autonomy and Governance (IAG) for the SUGPAT Youth Talks 3 last October 2 at the Subanen Room, Garden Orchid Hotel.

IAG research consultant Dr. Ofelia L. Durante presented the institute’s paper entitled, “Research on Youth Vulnerability to Violent Extremism (VE) in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).”

The research presented aimed at providing a preliminary picture of vulnerability of young people to VE and to propose policies and programs for government and non-government agencies as well as action from local communities.  

The study revealed that Muslim young people had at least a basic understanding of mainstream Islamic principles, but showed very limited understanding of the concepts used by extremists. This implied that VE groups have yet to popularize their cause. Muslim youth, however, will continue to be exposed to extremist concepts without a relevant program to counter the narrative.

During the conduct of their study, Dr. Durante said that the “participants were very hesitant to reveal anything because of the presence of the violent extremist groups” who promoted fear among them. She added, “The way they impose fear is through rido, or hurting your family. If they cannot hurt you, they’ll hurt your family.”

Dr. Durante also shared the different factors that pull the youth into being recruited in VE groups. Among these are the articulateness of recruiters and their use of traditional spaces, their martial training (basic skills training in use of weapons and machines), the close-knit sense of brotherhood among group members, and the generous provision of cash incentives.

“They can only go to school if they join [the VE groups] because it is the income that they get from the other side of the world that they use to go to school,” she said.

Part of Dr. Durante and their team’s research were various policy and program recommendations such as the adoption of a comprehensive national policy framework on preventing and countering violent extremism.

Various strategies to address the push and pull factors of violent extremism were also addressed. Among them was the mainstreaming of the philosophy of Islamic moderation (wasatiyyah) in Muslim communities by spreading messages of inclusive Muslim beliefs to young people.

Providing young people with genuine opportunities for accessible quality education both in the basic and collegiate levels to get jobs and employment was also seen as a strategic intervention to address violent extremism.

In closing, the research recommends that “the Muslim community, through a process of collective reflection and leadership, be at the forefront in pursuing the many solutions to violent extremism especially those that are rooted in traditional institutions and practices fundamental to well-functioning Muslim communities.”

This forum, in partnership with AdZU’s SDC, is the third in a series as part of the SUGPAT Youth Talks which is uniquely designed to discuss timely issues and programs, identify areas of convergence, and leverage resources for better outcomes for Filipino children and adolescents.

“This is our ultimate goal: in order for our youth to contribute towards creating a happier, safer, and more peaceful community here in Zambaonga City,” Assistant to the President for Social Development John Mayo Enriquez said.

Asked of the importance of involving the youth in fora like this, Enriquez said since they know their fellow youth the best, they are more knowledgeable of the best strategies to change the engagement from violent extremism towards nation building.

Referring to the youth, he added: “You need to involve yourselves here; you need to engage; you need to make yourself realize the importance and value towards your role in countering and preventing violent extremism.”

The half-day talk was attended by almost 200 participants, including Local Government Unit (LGU) officials, Sangguniang Kabataan officers, youth leaders, the academe, community partners, and the fellows enrolled in SUGPAT’s Alternative School for Peacebuilding and the Arts.

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