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) concluded its fourth advanced training - the first to be held virtually - for religious leaders on Preventing Radicalization and Extremism Leading to Terrorism (PRELT) in Africa.
The training, held on 8-15 July 2021, brought together 25 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.
On his part, Ambassador Ahmed Abdel-Latif, Director General of CCCPA, mentioned that there was a resurgence of terrorist groups in some parts of Africa with several of them seeking to expand their influence and territorial control at a time when governments’ attention is focused on the response to the pandemic. As underlined by the Aswan Forum Conclusions, addressing the terrorist threat calls for a holistic approach that includes security, developmental, societal and prevention components. CCCPA’s PRELT program seeks to strengthen the capacities of African countries and societies in this context and is premised on Egypt’s successful experience in tackling the terrorist threat in recent years.
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.
The training was held, in cooperation with the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development, and in the context of the implementation of the Aswan Forum Conclusions, which is supported by the Government of Japan, the United Nations Development Program, the Government of Sweden and the African Development Bank Group.