It was day 2 of the Freedom of Belief or Religion youth exchange program; the FoRB exchange project is an initiative to connect with people, exchange experiences and learn from best practices in countering radicalization, violent extremism and hate speech at a local level.
The youth were heading to the County of Kwale which is located in the south of Mombasa. They were visiting Diani Police Station where they would attend a community policing meeting. This was an opportunity to learn and experience how the police work with the community in maintaining peace at Kwale County and understand the role of the youth. The youth needed to understand how youths can work with the police to foster peace and combat violent extremism; the level of recruitment is quite high in Kwale. These would be lessons and experiences they would take back to Indonesia and Netherlands.
An opportunity to learn and experience how the police work with the community in maintaining peace at Kwale County and understand the role of the youth.”
At Diani Police station community members are already in the compound. The youth will meet with the local youth leaders and police, the women, religious leaders and elders who are part of the community policing representatives. The Police deputy welcomes the youth to the discussions.
Kwale being an area where youths are easy targets for radicalization the police have found strong measures against people who are found radicalizing the youths, whether in churches or in mosques or generally from the community. In Indonesia there is a lot of religious intolerance and the youth wanted to understand how they can deal with the issue of radicalization in their communities.
The police have found strong measures against people who are found radicalizing the youths, whether in churches or in mosques or generally from the community.”
The people who are involved in the community policing report any ‘off’ activity, which help the police in fighting this vice. This has made them to be targets, and put their lives in danger as the rest of the community view them as traitors for working so closely with the police. The community policing involvement in the counter violence extremism has made them to be vulnerable. The police mentioned that any returnee is given a second chance and are embraced in the society and helped to find ways to sustain them.
After a tour of the station the youth were off to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church which is still at Kwale County. They held interfaith dialogues with youths and people from the community on the benefits of interfaith dialogues. The youths from Indonesia and Netherlands also took this opportunity to share about their faiths, religions and beliefs.
‘The FoRB project has enabled people from different faiths to coexist and live peacefully, it has touched and changed the lives of many people. Before it was uncommon to see Sheikhs and pastors seated, holding conversations or eating and drinking together. It was unheard of for a Christian to enter a Mosque and vice versa’, the residents of Kwale County narrated. There were stories of people sharing on how they were bitter and held grudges against other faiths but with interfaith dialogues they are now more receptive of each other’s faiths and have increased tolerance of each other.
The youth from Indonesia and Netherlands shared their experience on interfaith dialogues. The biggest interfaith challenge facing Indonesia is that people are more radical when it comes to religion, it is very easy for people to get provoked just by the mention of another religion. One of the Indonesia youths shared how his family reacted negatively to the fact that on his Facebook page he had wished people a Merry Christmas. His family was deeply concerned that he was being tolerant of a different faith. This was just an example of one of the many instances the different youths shared.
The youth shared about their different faiths, religions and beliefs.
It was end of day 2 and the youths were ready to leave to Nairobi for phase 2 of their exchange.
Next stop Nairobi County.
By Mary N. Ndulili