The Alliance for Peacebuilding; Eastern Mennonite University-The Center for Justice & Peacebuilding and the Toda Peace Institute co-sponsored a two-day conference, held in Harrisonburg, VA (November 5-6, 2016) on "The Ecology of Violent Extremism." The meeting brought together leading theorists and practitioners, with extensive experience in the field of peacebuilding with an emphasis on negotiation, governance, democratic processes, intergroup dialogue, and the use of media to address key drivers of violent conflict, to discuss an ecological or systems approach to violent extremism (VE). An ecological approach to violent extremism views the problem of VE in a broader context than the mainstream media and political analysis. Counter terrorism strategies generally offer simplistic examinations of violent extremism by focusing solely on the individuals and groups using terror, without examining the broader factors driving or mitigating violent extremism. This project aimed at reframing the traditional approaches to VE, which focus almost exclusively on the role of violent counterterrorism. Participants discussed the role of education and inclusive peacebuilding processes to address the broader national and global factors that promote radicalisation and motivate violent political behaviour.
Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Senior Research Fellow of the Toda Peace Institute together with Omar Farouk from the Center for Policy Research and International Studies (CenPRIS) at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) organized a policy workshop on "Engaging Extremism with Muslims' Nonviolence" in Penang, Malaysia, September 19-22, 2016. The workshop was facilitated by Kevin Clements and Paula Green. They designed an experiential process to enable Muslim researchers and practitioners to understand violence from a Muslim perspective and then reflect on how justice might be pursued by Muslim nonviolent actors. Participants explored cases of extremism and deadly conflicts within the Muslim world, and then explored the relationship between Islam and nonviolence and how this might mitigate the violent effects of extremism. The organizers will be producing a book or a journal issue on the subject based on selected papers in 2017. On September 21, 2016, CenPRIS and the Toda Peace Institute organized a public forum with selected conference participants, members of the public and the policy community on "Violent Extremism: Islam and Nonviolent Policy Alternatives." This forum generated lively discussions between local intellectuals, members of the media, diplomats and representatives from the policy community.