In December 2009, Women without Borders (WwB) launched its ‘Salaam Damai, Damai Salaam’ project on the Indonesia island of Java. As a part of WwB’s growing Sisters Against Violent Extremism platform (SAVE network) of campaigns and grassroots activists, Lily Munir, WwB’s SAVE network Indonesia coordinator, organised two youth camps for some one hundred girls and boys to discuss how to identify and challenge extremist ideologies in schools, learned about tolerance in Islam, and played games to get to know each other and build up a strong youth network.
Following thirty-two years of authoritarian rule, Indonesia experienced a period of reform during which democratic rule took hold but religious and political tensions prevailed. The onset of an era of renewed ideological conflict and a surge in violent extremist activities has favoured recruitment efforts of extremist groups who increasingly have been targeting those who universally are in the most vulnerable stages of their lives: adolescents and young adults. With a high number of extremists now targeting Indonesian youth, sites of learning like schools, universities, and pesantrens have become central recruiting hubs for various extremist groups. Despite presenting a critical, societal issue, however, violent extremism remains by and large a topic cloaked in silence while prevention initiatives continue to be rare.
Recognising the urgency of the issue of violent extremism and the need for a heightened degree of awareness on the part of Indonesian students, Women without Borders (WwB) launched the ‘Salaam Damai, Damai Salaam’ project and embedded it in its growing Sisters Against Violence Extremism (SAVE) network. With the help of SAVE Indonesia Coordinator Lily Munir, WwB organised two different youth peacecamps at a mountain resort in Java.
Students discussed how to identify and challenge extremist ideologies in schools, learned about religious tolerance, and played games to get to know each other and build up a youth network. The students participated in naming the programme by creating their own special SAVE greeting: ‘Salaam Damai… Damai Salaam’.
Following the peacecamps, the students soon organised their own SAVE network reunion. The project engaged over one hundred girls and boys, and it paved the way for further WwB workshops and projects in Indonesia. Lily Munir went on to launch the ‘Mothers for Change!’ campaign to facilitate group discussions with mothers in Indonesia and welcome them into WwB’s global SAVE network.