GNRC–Kenya convened some of its members to participate in an interfaith breakfast forum on 26th January 2018 in Nairobi to sensitize community influencers and leaders on preventive measures to ending violent extremism in Kenya and the region. Among those who attended were representatives of civil society organizations, religious institutions and individuals working to promote the rights of children and government officials, including the advisor to the President of the Republic of Kenya on peacebuilding and cohesion, Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia.
The Forum heard from Dr. Essam El-Bashir, a renowned religious scholar from Sudan working to help young people to achieve moderation. He delivered a lecture on strengthening religious leaders and institutions to end violent extremism and terrorism. In the meeting, Dr. El-Bashir pointed to the need for faith leaders to work together to end violence in all its forms. Citing examples on how prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) interacted with his neighbors and members of other faiths, Dr. El-Bashir stressed that Muslims should interact with members of other faiths in matters that enhance cohesion, peace and development in the country.
He shared 8 principles that everyone needs to respect in order to achieve peaceful coexistence:
- Respect the religion of the other
- Respect other people’s opinion
- Follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and the teachings of the Holy Qur’an
- Respect and trust your neighbor
- Before doing anything think of the outcomes of your actions
- Only by spreading the real Islam is when humanity can know Islam. Actions of violent extremists do not represent Islam
- Guide the youth and children towards success as they will lead us in the future
- Create a conducive environment for interaction between Muslims and members of other faiths
The sheikh also shared some of the initiatives they have undertaken as religious leaders and citizens of Sudan. These include: shunning acts of violence in mosques and public gatherings, advising children and youth against violence, and integrating those radicalized. Dr. El-Bashir highlighted the great success they had witnessed in changing the attitudes of radicalized youth, putting the success rate at 80%.
Participants spoke of fears arising from attempts to fight violent extremists, pointing out that those who confront the extremists end up being threatened or even murdered and the government fails to protect them. They noted that many religious scholars and activists end up fighting the war on terror alone. Dr. El-Bashir asked the government to do more to address the challenge. For success to be realized, he emphasized the need for religious institutions and the community at large to empower women, youth and children, adding that women are the pillars of the society and children are the future.