We live through a major crisis and the future is uncertain for all of us. Young people will be particularly hard hit with the consequences.
The radicalisation of youth, and an accompanying rise in violence, have become issues of growing concern in many parts of the world. They are characterised by increases in hate speech, hate crimes, propaganda and violent xenophobia, as well as religious and political extremism, even occasionally culminating in terrorist attacks. Young people are, indeed, more vulnerable to the siren call of extremist groups than any other age group.
For a long time, the main root causes of violent extremism were believed to be poverty, unemployment and a lack of education. However, it is gradually becoming evident that today’s radicalisation is also largely influenced by ideologies and societal tendencies, especially when young people feel they are subjected to social exclusion and marginalisation. The need to be ‘accepted’, to feel that they count, and ‘belong’ to a group, makes teenagers easy prey for extremist groups. Such groups offer young people a conduit through which to release the rage they can experience at this vulnerable period in their development, as well as a means of expressing typical feelings of injustice and frustration. These tendencies are exacerbated by a distinct scarcity of inspirational role models in today’s world. Instead, our youth are confronted with a daily diet of corrupt politicians, fallen idols, the banalisation of violence and a basic lack of respect at every level. Such trends are further fuelled by growing elitism, social disparities, and the glorification of wealth and quick profit over all else. As we move into a global recession, the social divide will grow.
More than ever before, young people are:
searching for answers to questions about identity, faith and belonging.
driven by a craving for 'adventure' and excitement as well as a constant desire to enhance their self-esteem and 'street credibility'.
drawn to groups or individuals who seem to offer identity, social networks and support.
Adversely influenced by