Teach peace

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Irina Bokova [UNESCO]]

Education is the way to disarm the processes that can lead to radicalisation, by undermining prejudice and fighting ignorance and indifference, writes Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Irina Bokova is a career diplomat from Bulgaria. She served as her country’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, where she was responsible for European integration. She is serving a second term as director general of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Bokova wrote this op-ed exclusively for EURACTIV.

128 killed in cold blood. 257 wounded. A city stunned. A country in a state of emergency. The world shocked.

The results of the barbarous terrorist attacks in Paris are tragic, and they reach across the globe.

Discussion has started on? next steps. Stronger intelligence, deeper security cooperation, targeted action — these are essential. With these, we need to think profoundly about how to prevent and counter violent extremism of the kind that attacked Paris.

There is no single profile for terrorists. Nor is there a single path that leads to the radicalisation of a young person.

What we do know is that hard ?power is not enough to counter a threat that is fuelled by an exclusive vision of the world and identity, based on false interpretations of faith, hatred of others, ignorance and intolerance.

This is about disarming a perverted way of thinking, about preventing it from taking root.

No one is born a violent extremist. Violent extremists are made and they are fuelled.

Young people are learning to hate – we need to teach them peace.

Education is the way to counter and prevent violent extremism. Not just any education, but education for peace, education for solidarity, education for new forms of global citizenship.

This is the way to disarm the processes that can lead to radicalisation, by undermining prejudice and fighting ignorance and indifference.

This sounds abstract – it isn’t.

Young people need to be taught the cultures and histories of other people as their own. They need to be taught the commonality of all human aspirations and humanity’s cultural heritage and diversity. They need to be provided with new skills for intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and respect. They need to be given every opportunity for their voices to be heard and listened to on matters that affect them.

This calls for new curricula, new teacher training, new textbooks, new efforts inside and outside the classroom– to teach young people that humanity is one and that they belong.

The Internet is essential to countering radicalisation.

The Internet is a vast world that young people enter without a map, without guidance, without survival skills. It is the most powerful force of socialisation for many young people – and yet they are not taught how to use it, how to travel through it, where its dangers lie.

We need young people to be more than digital natives – we need them them to be digital citizens.

This calls for every young person to be not just media savvy but media literate, critical of information they read, aware of the ethics of communication, knowledgeable about the pitfalls of the digital world.

Violent extremists are teaching and reaching young people with messages of hatred. We need to turn this table, to teach peace and reach everyone, through every way we have.

This is frontline in the struggle against violent extremism today – the struggle for the hearts and minds of young people.