Based on fieldwork in 35 cities and villages across 15 provinces in Afghanistan with community activists, religious leaders, and tribal elders, WORDE researchers have explored how Afghan civil society has created innovative strategies to push back against extremism. Their research explores best practices, and ultimately, avenues through which the US and the international community can best enhance indigenous efforts of both faith-based and non-faith based local Afghan organizations.
WORDE researchers have determined that the most successful initiatives were those that approached peacebuilding from a culturally appropriate paradigm: from deploying classical Persian poetry of Rumi and Jami in promoting tolerance, to distributing social welfare assistance to at-risk communities at ancient pilgrimage sites. In addition, WORDE has interviewed dozens of faith leaders who have originated local programs to prevent sectarian violence, as well as initiatives to prevent youth violence and drug use within their mosques and madrasas.
In order to sustain such efforts beyond 2014, the authors argue that greater international support will be required. In addition to encouraging the US and the international community to continue investing in the Afghan people, WORDE’s research aims to raise the public profile of effective efforts on the ground, and to encourage greater engagement with groups on the frontline in preventing violent extremism.
“I found the report a very important contribution at this moment in Afghanistan’s history. The value of civil society and its role in dealing with and reducing extremism cannot be overstated and will play a key role in defining Afghanistan’s long term survival. WORDE’s work on this report, and the accompanying directory, will be very helpful to policy makers and students of Afghanistan and this subject.”
— John R. Allen, General, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), Former Commander International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan 2011-2013