On June 12, Omar Mateen gunned down 49 partygoers and injured many others in a shooting spree at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He pledged allegiance to ISIS before being shot himself in what is now being called the worst terror attack in the United States since 9/11.
On June 13, Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf released a gruesome video showing the beheading of a Canadian hostage in the jungle of what looks like Jolo in Southern Philippines. The hostage, Robert Hall, knelt before his killers with the Islamic State flag in the background. The group demanded a daunting $16 million ransom which the Canadian government understandably refused to pay.
On June 16, British Labour Party MP Jo Cox was stabbed and shot in West Yorkshire. The beloved Cox fought for child refugees, victims of the conflict in Syria, and rights of minority groups. When her murderer was asked to state his name, he responded with, “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” His real name is Thomas Mair.
On June 18, Iraqi forces declared that they have reclaimed most of Fallujah from the Islamic State. The blow is a hard one, as the Islamic State has used Fallujah as a strategic stronghold to launch attacks on Baghdad. But the human cost is staggering. Citizens are used as human shields. 70,000 have already left the city. There is barely any food, water, or medicine for the 150,000 displaced people expected to need aid.
The rise of terror in different parts of the world is happening on an unprecedented scale. We were only starting to mourn for the victims of the Orlando shooting, when other reasons to mourn cruelly surfaced. The US, Philippines, UK, and Iraq are but four dots out of dozens on a map of a world strewn with terror.
However, in these trying times, we must remember that extremism and terrorism must not be associated with any religion, country, or ethnicity. It is useless to fight hate with hate.
The death and suffering of the past few days, if anything, tell us that extremism can be found anywhere, and the violence it brandishes can be targeted at anyone. Extremism is an attack on our diversity – which forms a big part of what it means to be human.
This is why I call on our One Young World to protect humanity by offering a response against extremism that knows no violence or hatred. I call on young people to be Extremely Together.
Extremely Together is an initiative by the Kofi Annan Foundation that brings young people together to counter and prevent violent extremism across borders and cultures.
As 10 young leaders we are at the forefront of the bloodless battle against hatred. Instead of guns, we use schools, libraries, organizations, business, innovation, policy, research, and art to counter violent extremism.
We are positive that you can add to this list. Whether it is an existing initiative or a budding idea, the fight against extremism must be a priority among young people. We must share resources and plans and bridge the gaps that others have broken. We must do it together.
Our future is at stake.
Arizza Nocum, Extremely Together