Religious institutions are well positioned to constructively engage the spiritually wounded young followers and to help them build a new narrative of peace and development.
The pattern of conflicts in the world in general and Africa in particular has repeatedly shown that extremists tend to rally around religious or ethnic ideals as was the case in the Rwandan genocide, the crisis in Central African Republic and Nigeria. Of the 48 sub-Saharan African countries, 23 have experienced a civil war where faiths have played a ‘multiplier effect.’
Approximately one-third of those countries also witnessed what is considered a religious conflict such as the current threat of violent extremism and terrorism from groups like al-Shabaab, ISIS, al-Qaida, Lord’s Resistance Army and Boko Haram, all of which have been undermining social peace and reviving tensions along religious lines. Despite years of military interventions, the threat is still very much present.
The pain caused by atrocities from violent extremist groups and the lack of qualified and timely responses from our religious institutions has enabled religious violence to be passed down as a legacy from generation to generation. Hatred has become as much associated with religion more than love.
Today, violence dominates headlines and not so often do we expose young people to alternative narratives which our religious resources richly have.
With the above background, the exposure to online and offline hate speech content and violence, it is no longer time to be politically correct and hide in our conservative religious shells and be self-destructively naïve that “our sons or my daughters are okay”
As a peace and violence prevention practitioner, I have worked with thousands of young people worldwide who are jostling with radical ideas. I can confirm that they are hungry for exemplary people working for peace in order to learn how they too can play their role. They long to see the emergence of the religious professional, or professionally religious institutions that inspire and guide people in the ways of higher consciousness and to live in harmony with their individual and collective well-being.
However, for this to happen, religious institutions must accept their responsibility and emphasise how to work together to collectively uplift people. They should focus less on the needs of institutional survival and self-preservation. Competition instead of cooperation between religions is retrogressive. History shows that this is responsible for the darkest periods in the history of humanity.
Today, it is sad to see one religion claiming superiority over another and even willing to fight each other. We continue to witness how religions have become hostage for con men to expanding their individual interests using the name of God. This unfortunate situation creates a moral dilemma for the followers. Their notions of God, truth, and divine are distorted, compromised and betrayed by their pain, confusion, hopelessness and anger when religious institutions fail to embody the true divine message of love, tolerance and respect for human dignity.
Finally, if religious institutions are to be taken seriously as partners in peace and development in the 21st Century, they must go ahead and explore ideas on how to turn our youth into peace and development assets.
Nuwagaba Muhsin Kaduyu firstname.lastname@example.org