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Promoting Tolerance and Understanding from Indonesia to Morocco

2011 May 4

Conflict Management Training within an Indonesian Prison

From Indonesia to Morocco, SFCG has observed that some counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization approaches have actually contributed to extremist discourse. Certain ways of messaging and framing topics can further the isolation of groups and individuals and strengthen rigid behaviors among vulnerable populations.

We aim for a different approach. SFCG has developed strategies to achieve large-scale disengagement from violence among vulnerable populations. These strategies include creating space for discussion and promoting models of conflict that encourage respect for diversity, tolerance, and non-violent solutions to disputes.

SFCG works with Islamic and public schools, police and government authorities, as well as the media. Through media, SFCG fosters understanding of existing problems and provides spaces for moderate discourses and multiple voices.

In Indonesia and Morocco, we have taken our collaborate approach to prisons; implementing conflict management trainings with prison guards and high-risk prisoners – some convicted of terrorism. Teaching prisoners to deal with conflict in constructive ways, the trainings actually showed a reduced risk of violence within the prisons. Abdul Aziz, an Indonesian prisoner convicted of terrorism who participated in the training said, “The sessions have made me realize that there are people with different ideologies and they should be respected.”

Cover of a comic book distributed in Indonesian schools

SFCG also targets young people, especially those from communities more vulnerable to extremism, by working in Indonesian boarding schools (peantrens) and Pakistani religious education schools (madrassas) to promote religious tolerance. In Indonesia, SFCG organized the first National Debate Competitions on Islam and Tolerance, which we showcased earlier with this wonderful video.  We also produce educational comic books that reflect moderate Islamic views for dissemination in the schools.

Television and radio also have a unique ability to widen our audiences.  In places like Pakistan, which has recently experienced an increase in extremist media, moderate voices can serve as an important counter. Through our Radio for Peacebuilding project, SFCG supports the production of programming that encourages dialogue, peace and alternative approaches to conflict. Through this initiative, SFCG has brought together over 60 radio stations across the country to form a network that which uses radio responsibly, to promote peace, community development and social empowerment. SFCG established a formal office in Pakistan in January 2010, expanding its nascent media engagement strategy to include not only Radio for Peacebuilding, but the development of The Team, which in Pakistan will use cricket, rather than soccer due to the former’s overwhelming popularity.

The word “counterterrorism” is inherently short-term; aimed at combating a problem. Our work takes a long-term approach to address underlying issues that lead to violent outcomes.  SFCG programs reach a large population through on-the-ground activities and media and, perhaps most importantly these projects incorporate local populations and perspectives from the initial stages.

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