ECOWAS strengthens skills of imams, teachers in fight against violent extremism

imams, teachers
imams, teachers

The Human Development and Social Affairs Department of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), organized from 09 to 23 September 2022, a training session for the benefit of imams, preachers and masters of madrasa schools in Côte d’Ivoire.

This training, which focuses on the theme: “Prevention of violent extremism and radicalization in the ECOWAS region”, took place at the headquarters of the Superior Council of Imams, Mosques and Islamic Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire (COSIM). . After Niger, Nigeria, Burkina and Mali which constituted the four beneficiary countries of the training program, it was around Côte d’Ivoire to receive, after an evaluation of the first program, the training session for trainers imams. Said session lasted a fortnight and saw the participation of about thirty Imams, preachers and madrasa masters. This important workshop aims to strengthen the capacities of imams, preachers and madrasa school teachers in the fight against violent extremism and radicalization in the community space, through the improvement of educational content, teaching and sermons.

The closing ceremony of this training took place on Friday, September 23, 2022, under the chairmanship of the Director General of Worship, Mr. Messamba BAMBA, representing the Minister of the Interior and Security. It also saw the participation of Cheick Aïma Ousmane DIAKITE, president of COSIM, Prof. Fatou SOW/SARR, Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs of the ECOWAS Commission, the Ambassador of the European Union in Côte d’Ivoire, Mrs. Francesca Di Mauro, as well as the Resident Representative of ECOWAS in Ivory Coast, Mrs. Fanta CISSE.

In his welcoming address, Cheick Aïma Ousmane DIAKITE, said he was honored to host such a training in Côte d’Ivoire, which will help strengthen the role of imams for peace. For him, Islam advocates good values and is very far from extremism. Religious leaders then have an obligation to act through training and a better understanding of Islam. While thanking the ECOWAS Commission for this great initiative, particularly in the current context of our Region, he asked the Imams and teachers of medrasa schools to preach tolerance, solidarity, inter-religious cohabitation, fraternity, in a word, social cohesion, because the Muslim is not in favor of violence.

For his part, Prof. Fatou SOW / SARR, Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs, in her speech, said she was satisfied that the Program started with four countries of the Region, is continuing to expand. She welcomed the experience of Côte d’Ivoire and reassured that another country in the Region will host the said program next year. For her, it is through this activity, to instill in imams, the notions of the fight against violent extremism, against hate speech, radicalization and above all to cultivate social cohesion and the rejection of extremism. . According to Prof. SOW/SARR, while violent extremism remains an increasingly high threat in the ECOWAS region, there is a consensus that military operations and security measures alone are not enough to solve this challenge. To respond fully and effectively to this challenge, more emphasis needs to be placed on preventing violence through community engagement and building resilience. It is in this context that ECOWAS has identified culture of peace education as one of the long-term strategies for the prevention of violent extremism, which prepares individuals and communities for resilience and provides solutions to the problems of fear, suspicion and insecurity which constitute real threats to peace, sustainable development and regional integration. While being satisfied with the expected results during these fifteen days of training, Prof. SOW / SARR urged the thirty Ivorian imams to serve as relays and trainers for their peers.

Closing the proceedings, Mr. Messamba BAMBA, Director General of Worship, in his speech, thanked ECOWAS for having thought of Côte d’Ivoire, a country which is also exposed like the other countries of the Region, to the extremist threat. For him, this training will undoubtedly contribute not only to strengthening the capacities of religious leaders, but also to highlighting the role of these leaders for peace, especially at a time when the problem of violent extremism is more topical than ever in the ECOWAS region.

In order to better prevent and combat violent extremism and radicalization in West Africa, the participants of the training formulated resolutions and recommendations.

Under the resolutions, the participants undertook to: support all the actions of the authorities with the aim of promoting peace, cohesion and living together in order to promote and enhance the union of peoples in the ECOWAS region; teach the values of peace, love and mutual aid of our religion in order to counter any desire for self-isolation and radicalization of the members of our community; share with the authorities any information to help protect populations against the harmful effects of radicalization and violent extremism; participate fully in the economic and social development of our Region in order to be model citizens; support environmental protection policies for sustainable development in the Region; and put into practice all the lessons learned during this training.

As recommendations, they were intended for the Muslim community of Côte d’Ivoire, civil society, the Ivorian public authorities, development partners and the ECOWAS Commission. Those intended for the ECOWAS Commission are to: extend training on the fight against violent extremism and radicalization to the 31 regions of Côte d’Ivoire as well as to the regions of other countries in the ECOWAS region; translate the reference manual into Arabic and local languages within the ECOWAS region; strengthen partnership and communication between ECOWAS and Muslim communities on religious matters.

In addition to the Human Development and Social Affairs Commissioner, the training saw the participation of Prof. Abdoulaye MAGA, Director of Education, Science and Culture, Mrs. Aisha USMAN, Acting Head of Education Division and Dr. Emile ZIDA, Head of Culture Division of the ECOWAS Commission.

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