Violent extremism justifies violent actions based on political or religious ideologies and young people are particularly vulnerable. In some countries they are even more at risk: in Pakistan, where nearly 120 million young people live, vulnerable young people continue to be attacked, manipulated and recruited by extremist groups.
Young people can be vulnerable to violent extremism for a variety of reasons, including social exclusion, discrimination, hate, trauma, racism and forced displacement. These reasons often accumulate over time, leading to increased frustration among young people and making them vulnerable to exploitation by extremist groups who promise them a better life and a sense of community.
Prevention of Violent Extremism Through Sport
We reviewed the implementation of the Sports for Development and Peace programs of two non-profit organizations in Pakistan. We have found that youth vulnerability can be changed by building life skills and developing social and moral values through sport.
These programs aim to use different sports or physical activities to promote peace, health and social cohesion by involving everyone in fostering community bonds. Because inclusion prevents discrimination, these programs promote a safe, stress-free environment in which young people can let themselves go.
For example, the Swat Youth Front uses football, volleyball and cricket to promote the values of peace among war survivors. Similarly, the Kafka Welfare Organization uses team sports to promote peace among youth in Pakistan.
Not only has sport helped prevent vulnerable youth from engaging in violent extremism, but it has also been used to reintegrate radicalized, excluded or forcibly displaced people into communities. The programs have also helped reduce the mental health consequences of trauma exposure.
Sport Has Done This Because:
* Physical activity can protect and promote positive mental, physical and spiritual health.
* Pleasant activities, such as sports, help reduce stress and anxiety.
* Team sports help young people make friends and develop social bonds. The young people we engaged with helped them build support systems as they bonded with their teammates.
A Global Threat Requires a Larger Solution
The United Nations has been promoting the role of sport in preventing violent extremism among communities for years.
Violent Extremism is a Global Threat That Needs to be Tackled Seriously.
Investing in sports programming can be part of a larger solution. Sport can provide a strategy for reintegrating young people involved in violent activities into society. It can also help prevent new targets from being recruited.
Sport has the power to encourage social behavior in young people. Neglecting its role in social development can increase the likelihood that young people will engage in violent activities.