Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR) held its 3rd international conference on 9-10th October 2018 on religious extremism and violence in Africa. Various stakeholders came on board (Representative of Norwegian Church Aid, Hassan Mohamed, Secretary of the Commission National Association for Integration and Cohesion in Kenya (NCIC), Mr. Mahmoud Majilisein, Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of the Republic of Iran, Sheikh Ibrahim Lethome, SUPKEM, Mr. Joseph Opondo, Deputy Director of the Counter- Kenya Terrorism (NCTC), Mr. Muhammad Kpakpo Addo – Executive Secretary of the Conference of Religions for Peace in Ghana (GCRP), Mr. Gerald Acho (Cameroon)and Jesuits from Africa). They reflected and discussed the causes of religious extremism in Africa and what should be done to counter religious extremism. .
Religious extremism was defined as radicalization into violent extremism motivated by religious teachings. Religious extremist groups embrace extralegal and violent means to further their ends, which often clash with the state’s goal of keeping the peace and maintaining a monopoly over the means of violence.
Some of the causes of religious extremism that were discussed in the conference included the following elements: Social isolation, social disconnectedness and economic discrimination of young people are key root-causes of violent extremism in Africa. High youth unemployment also predisposes young people toward religious extremism and violence in Africa. The recruiters target young people who are unemployed and they are promised well-paying jobs. They not only target the uneducated but go as far as recruiting young men and women from the university. It was also mention that recruit only target young people because they are vulnerable, have identity crisis but also because they are ready to die for the sake of their religions teaching.
New converts in Islam are targeted by the recruiters. This is because they do not fully understand Islam teaching and can be confused or brainwashed on Islam teaching. For instance, the issue of the 72 virgins that states should one die for the course of their religion then that person will be rewarded by being given 72 virgins
Misinterpretation of the scriptures by both Christians and Muslims was also seen another factor contributing to violent religious extremism. For example, the religious fundamentalist interpreting the bible or the Quran without taking into mind the current context.
some of the Interventions and strategies that were discussed to curb religious extremism iclude the following:
Encouraging Interreligious dialogue between various religions
Women are urge to play their roles as mothers. advice the younger generation because they listen more to their mothers
Encourage correct interpretation of the bible and Quran
Youth empowerment programs should be encouraged
Address islamonophobia and christianophobia by both religion