Religion has become increasingly important in conflict resolution worldwide. Religious leaders may play a key role in mobilising believers as they can call for peace or instigate violence. But what makes religious leaders support peace or promote violence? Several studies have linked religious leaders to violent extremism (VE) due to a lack of awareness and training on how best practices for ending VE can be incorporated into their daily teachings. Incorporation of tolerance-based teachings towards other faiths and secularism can reduce pro-violent attitudes. This is a qualitative study that collected qualitative data through one-on-one interviews with 20 clerics in Mtwara, Tanzania. The data was thematically presented and analysed. The findings indicated that although they incorporated some preventing violent extremism (PVE) teachings into their daily services, they did not adequately do so as the country does not openly address the issue but rather regards VE cases as conflicts or normal crimes. The Government did not openly acknowledge the existence of VE for a long time. As a result, the level of VE awareness of religious leaders was minimal. It should also be noted that clerics perceived the concept of VE differently, as there was no single clear definition of the subject matter. Due to limited information, awareness and knowledge of how they could best incorporate the subject matter into their daily holy teachings, they ended up stimulating rather than preventing the problem. The study recommends intensive VE training for religious (youth) leaders so they understand what it is, its challenges and how best to prevent it. These methods include incorporating some VE teachings on prevention in their sermons. The study believes, in the long run, the country will have a community that is knowledgeable on VE and how to resist the temptations of joining such groups that deny human rights and freedom.

Keywords: Assessment, Violent extremism, Religious youth leaders, Tanzania.

This paper is published under the “Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE), Youth & Interfaith: Research Capacity Building Project”. Read more about the project on the following link:

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