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Sports can help prevent violent extremism in youth

Azaria Alfreda

Sep 1, 2022

Sports can help prevent violent extremism in youth

Instances of violent extremism such as the recent attacks on Chinese workers in Pakistan have been on a rise globally. These incidents urge nations across the world to adopt all necessary actions — including declaring zero-tolerance policies — to curb the violence.

Young people may be vulnerable to violent extremism because of many reasons such as social exclusion, discrimination, hate, trauma, racism and forced displacement. These reasons often accumulate over time, leading to increased frustrations among youth and making them vulnerable to exploitation by extremist groups who promise them a better life and sense of community.

Our recent research noticed that sports could help prevent violent extremism through resilience building. Sports are a powerful way that can change lives. When young people experience positive communication, it sharpens their sense of belonging, improves mental health and cements community ties.

Experiencing fairness and integrity through the repetition of sporting values and principles including respect for others, cooperation and team-work, problem solving, conflict resolution, fair play and resilience — makes them better human beings. It may also influence honesty, responsibility, respect and trust in their lives outside these activities as well.

The youth we interacted with — as part of our research — mentioned that they often “felt alone and neglected, but now feel important and have a purpose in life.” Many were thrilled to feel respected by their teammates. It helped them feel equal.

Governments of developing countries, such as Pakistan, need to follow these practices and integrate them in their policies, because violent extremism cannot be stopped through military actions alone in the long term. We need to also support young and vulnerable people, and that is possible through sports.

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