In Kenya, the societal divide along religious lines has worsened in recent decades. Economic challenges and the dangers of terrorist groups play an important role in this. Rising tensions with risks of violent conflicts have robbed young people of a future prospects. Together with our local partners, Mensen met een Missie strives to improve the quality of life of vulnerable groups by promoting interfaith peacebuilding.
A vicious cycle of interfaith conflict
Freedom of religion is included in the Kenyan constitution, as is the prohibition of religious discrimination. Despite this, Kenyan Muslims, who make up just 11% of the population, experience marginalisation. Tana River County and other coastal regions where many Muslim communities live, have always lacked government representation and been disadvantaged regarding educational and economic opportunities.
Unemployment among young people is extremely high. The few jobs around in the private sector, the police force and other government positions are often awarded to their Christian counterparts, who usually have had better educational opportunities.The sense of marginalisation and lack of opportunities among Muslim communities leads to isolation and predisposes young people, in particular, to recruitment by violent radical groups. Over the last few years, Al-Shabab has been gaining ground in Kenya again and has killed at least 300 people since 2015.
The government’s brutal crackdown on terrorism often reinforces feelings of discrimination among Muslims and increases tensions. The result is a vicious cycle of interfaith prejudice and conflict between Christians and Muslims that is difficult to break.
A sense of marginalisation and lack of opportunities among Muslim communities leads to isolation and predisposes young people, in particular, to recruitment by violent radical groups.
Alongside our three local partners, we work to improve relationships between different religious communities. We do this through:
We believe in people’s power for collective action and place communities at the centre of the development process. To support this bottom-up approach, we train local religious leaders, women leaders and youth leaders in developing skills on conflict mitigation and strategies, which they use to promote peace and stability in their communities.
Interfaith collaboration at all levels
With input from youth leaders at the national level, religious leaders and organisations engage in consistent dialogue with community groups, policymakers, law enforcement, government and other stakeholders to promote policies that enhance interfaith harmony and respect.
Cooperation with local law enforcement
Cooperation between local organisations, law enforcement, and the communities is essential to build trust between police and local communities. By training police and community leaders together and getting their leaders to train each other, partnerships are forged and strengthened. The formation of a community police force, managed by the community, but effectively cooperating with the formal police, is a strong example. As a result, communication between all parties has increased and police brutality has decreased.
Preventing and reducing radicalisation
To get to the root of the issue, we work with religious scholars and institutions to address the ideological drivers of radicalisation. Religious leaders participate in multiple-day training on preventing young people from becoming radicalised by teaching peaceful scripts from the Bible and the Quran, for example. We have also opened a hotline where people can report possible radicalisation activities.
By training police and community leaders together and getting their leaders to train each other, partnerships are forged and strengthened.
“Now I can easily enter the police station and talk freely with the police about issues of security in the area. I feel responsible as a leader to support my community, because I believe that I have a role to play to ensure that our children do not engage themselves in crime.” – Amina Juma Khamisi
Together with our local partners, Mensen met een Missie has managed to:
- Train 250 youth leaders, 280 religious leaders and 280 women leaders who are actively engaged in activities that prevent radicalisation and promote tolerance.
- Train 1,380 grassroots leaders and community members, on peace, religious diversity and tolerance through workshops, public awareness forums and youth forums and interfaith dialogues for religious leaders.
- Reach approximately 150,000 people through radio talk shows, social media, IEC materials (brochures, flyers, stickers) with stories and messages on peace and tolerance.
- Facilitate the formation of the Women of Faith Network that consists of 60 women religious leaders from different religious institutions to address gender-specific issues and promote interfaith tolerance.
Our commitment in Kenya to promote religious tolerance is part of our project “Tana investing in Peace” (2019-2021) as well as part of the “Freedom of Religion and Belief” programme (2018-2022) that Mensen met een Missie is implementing in Kenya, Pakistan and Indonesia.
Mensen met een missie
Dit zijn de mensen met een missie in
These are our people with a mission
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