Cairo, Egypt – Religious leaders play a critical role in preventing radicalization and extremism leading to terrorism.
In this regard, the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding (CCCPA) – in cooperation with the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development (EAPD) – concluded its third advanced training for religious leaders on Preventing Radicalization and Extremism Leading to Terrorism (PRELT) in Africa. CCCPA’s PRELT programs are supported by the the Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Program in the context of the activities of the project “Consolidating Peace, Security and Stability in Africa IV – 2019-2020”.
The training, held on 18 -22 August 2019, brought together 20 imams and religious leaders –including female preachers - from the Sahel and Sahara region (Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Nigeria). It aimed to capacitate those local leaders with the necessary knowledge, tools and skills to analyze their context, refute extremist interpretations of religion, and propagate an alternative narrative of peace and coexistence, based on the moderate teachings of Islamic Sharia.
Dr. Ali Gomaa, Egypt's former Grand Mufti, addressed the opening ceremony and delivered the theological aspect of the training. He highlighted the three failures of terrorist organizations, namely i) their failure to understand the text (Quran and the sayings of Prophet Mohamed); ii) their failure to grasp reality; and iii) their failure to apply the text to reality. Dr. Gomaa emphasized the crucial role of religious leaders in explaining (Al-Bayan) the true teachings of Islam, as the ultimate antidote to the fallacies, misinterpretations and misrepresentations propagated by terrorists and their extremist supporters.
Although preaching is dominated by men, Gomaa encouraged female attendees to proactively prevent radicalization and extremism leading to terrorism within their circles of influence leveraging off skills and tools gained through this training.
Participants also had the chance to visit Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism and explore the Religious Complex in Old Cairo. The latter is a religious and cultural site that promotes tolerance and coexistence.
PRELT is a flagship program of CCCPA, that is now widely considered as a leading community-based intervention. Since 2016, CCCPA has conducted ten foundational training courses, which saw the participation of a total of 158 local community leaders including tribal, women and youth leaders from Somalia and Nigeria; in addition to two advanced training that saw a total participation of 40 religious leaders from the Sahel and Sahara region.