Sports can help prevent violent extremism in youth

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Instances of violent extremism such as the recent attacks on Chinese workers in Pakistan have been on a rise globally. These incidents have forced nations across the world to take serious measures — including declaring zero-tolerance policies — to curb the violence.

Violent extremism condones violent actions that are based on political or religious ideologies, and youth are particularly vulnerable to it. In some countries they are at even greater risk: Pakistan, which is home to almost 120 million young people, sees recurring targeting, manipulation and recruitment of vulnerable youth by extremist groups.

Young people may be vulnerable to violent extremism due to several reasons including 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.

Researchers from Pakistan, Australia and Canada explored the reasons behind youth involvement in violent extremism in the South Punjab region of Pakistan and found that sports could help prevent it through resilience building. Sport is a powerful tool that can help change lives if used in an organised way.

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