Wally Harbert: Role of the sector in the fight against radicalisation

It's a long-term strategy with no quick fixes, writes our columnist

Wally Harbert
Wally Harbert

Imagine you are a young person in a poor inner-city area. You and your family have strong religious views; your faith is vital to your sense of identity.

Local adults discuss your religious obligations with you. Maybe you are being groomed for martyrdom. There are distinct divisions in your multicultural neighbourhood and you cannot confide with anyone outside your faith.

The first step in the fight against radicalisation is to relax barriers between different cultural and religious groups so that young people know people of different faiths are not their enemies. This is a long-term strategy with no quick fixes. Education policies are crucial.

Barriers can be removed only by people from within each community. Structures for achieving this are largely in place. There are probably more than a million small, informal community groups across the country, outside the purview of religious and charitable organisations, that help residents in distress. They do not believe they are doing anything remarkable but they bring communities together.

I have studied several unmanaged volunteer groups in disadvantaged areas. The trust I saw between volunteers and young people was remarkable. Some of those volunteers are probably now helping another generation of young people. They are unrecognised heroes. More trained and experienced community workers are needed, not to direct informal groups but to help them determine, then achieve, their own objectives. The little funding they require can come mostly from local charities. But the government, or a large charity, must nudge policy in the right direction.

Wally Harbert has worked in public service and the third sector

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