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October 31, 2022

Promoting political and religious tolerance for peace and security in the Horn of Africa

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In the wake of increased and continuous terrorist activities especially in the Horn of Africa, the world is awake and more interested in promoting tolerance as a way to combat terrorism. The idea is that if people of different religions and political beliefs can learn to respect and tolerate one another, then there will be less hatred and violence in the world, and therefore less terrorism. Terrorism is, first and foremost, a political act. It is an extreme form of violence used to achieve a political goal. Although religious beliefs may be used to justify or motivate terrorist acts, the primary aim of most terrorist groups is to achieve a political goal, such as independence, power, or territory. Most terrorist groups are relatively small and lack the resources to mount a major military campaign. They therefore rely on tactics that are designed to generate fear and publicity, such as bombings, assassinations, and hijackings. The media coverage that these acts receive can be a powerful tool for terrorists, as it can help to spread their message, increase their support, promote their agenda and instill public fear that can easily be mistaken for destructive power.

One of the best ways to combat terrorism is to promote political and religious tolerance. By encouraging people to respect the rights of others, regardless of their beliefs, we can make it more difficult for terrorist groups to recruit new members and generate support. This can be done through education. Children, the youth, women, and adults should be taught about the importance of respect for others, necessary in creating a more tolerant society. It can be taught in schools, religious institutions, by parents and other role models. From a young age, people that recognize tolerance and coexistence are more likely to grow into tolerant adults.

Another way is through the media. By ensuring that the media presents a fair and balanced view of different groups and religions, we can help to reduce the levels of prejudice and hatred. However, this is not always the case in most occasions where the media has covered terror incidents. More often than not, whether intentionally or not, the mechanisms employed by the media during these situations end up doing more damage than good. That said, institutions should invest in training the media on how to effectively cover and handle such incidents in a way that will inform the public and promote intolerance to violent extremism.

Legislation and public policy can be another tool. Laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity should be passed and effectively implemented as a best practice across the world. Governments need to create more policies designed to promote understanding and cooperation between culturally and socially diverse groups. Evident synergies have been seen between such efforts being complimented by civil society initiative and interventions towards peace, justice and security. Inter-agency, multi stakeholder and multisectoral approaches have the promise of sustainable success towards promoting political and religious tolerance.

Grassroots efforts including community based programs, inter-faith and inter-generational dialogue and media campaigns can be pathways to engaging conversations amongst communities about tolerance and co-existence. Community ownership and buy-in is one of the things that guarantee the success of any intervention. In this sense, it is imperative to employ the human centered design approach in promoting political and religious tolerance. Let us have affected communities initiate the conversations, acknowledge the apparent security needs and suggest solutions they can be part of. That is one sure way of achieving peace and security that is sustainable.

All of these approaches have the potential to promote tolerance and reduce terrorism. However, it is important to remember that tolerance is just one piece of the puzzle. There are many other factors that contribute to terrorism, and no single solution will eliminate it completely. But promoting tolerance is an important step in the right direction. In this regard, terrorists are simply but a tiny minority and the overwhelming majority of people of all religions and cultures are peaceful, tolerant and law-abiding. It is important to focus on this fact, and to work together to build a more tolerant and peaceful world.