Over the past decade, religious-based violence and discrimination against religious minorities has increased significantly. Throughout the world, there is a deterioration of the general climate of religious tolerance under the pressure of radicalization and polarization. Increasingly, social media is used to spread hate speech and promote intolerant extremist narratives. Especially young people are vulnerable to hate speech through social media channels. Yet at the same time, they occupy a core position when it comes to countering these narratives and as a new generation, they are indispensable in the peacebuilding process.

In an effort to strengthen the role and influence of youth in countering hate speech and radicalization, and in building a culture of tolerance, Mensen met een Missie in collaboration with its local partners and youth from Kenya, Indonesia and the Netherlands developed a youth exchange programme, bringing together youth leaders involved in promoting interfaith tolerance and addressing discrimination and radicalization. The overall objective was to advance the Right to Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB). This we believed, could be achieved through amplification of the voices of youths and strengthening the role they play in conflict prevention and interfaith peacebuilding.

An international movement
Together we embarked on providing safe spaces for youths from different parts of the world, with different religious backgrounds and beliefs, where youth could come together, share experiences and learn from each other’s best practices. The end result being the creation of an international movement against discrimination, radicalization and violent extremism.

The first exchange took place in Kenya in January 2020. Youth from Indonesia and the Netherlands met with youth from Kenya to learn how to effectively cooperate with the police in terms of conflict prevention. This exchange sparked friendships and cooperation that still exist until this day.

The exchange sparked friendships and cooperation that still exist until this day

Spread an alternative narrative online
Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, physical exchanges had to be postponed for the time being, and an online journey was thus developed. A survey was distributed to inquire on what conversations and experiences the youth would be interested in. The results showed that majority of youths responding were eager to increase their influence online. Specifically, in learning how to develop an effective social media campaign to spread an alternative narrative; positive messages of tolerance and diversity. They were also interested in learning about lobbying and how one can engage authorities and influence policy.

The FoRB youth influencer sessions
To this end, a series of online workshops have been developed for the youth influencers, focusing on social media and lobbying as strategies/instruments of influence. The social media workshops are scheduled for the 15th and 21st of January 2021 and will be facilitated by the GUSDURian Network Indonesia, a network of over one million youth with local branches in more than 100 places all over Indonesia.

The social media workshops will be followed by lobbying workshops taking place on the 4th and 11th of February 2021. These will be facilitated by the director of Mensen met een Missie, Rick van der Woud, due to his extensive knowledge and experience as a lobbyist. A wrap-up session of both workshops will close this online journey on the 26th of February 2021. Here participants will reflect on what they have learnt and come up with a strategy to implement the lessons in their work, for promoting tolerance and addressing radicalization and discrimination in real life.

Through this online journey, we hope to strengthen and increase the influence of youth in countering hate speech and engaging authorities and policy makers in building an alternative narrative of diversity and tolerance.

We hope to strengthen and increase the influence of youth in building an alternative narrative of diversity and tolerance

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