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Enough is Enough | Former Extremists unite to challenge violent conflict

May 20, 2015 | Nick Taylor

One of the United Kingdom’s leading peace charities, the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace is to launch a multimedia education resource that is set to change the approach to tackling extremism that leads people to violence and terrorism.

The resource is focused around a documentary film sharing the story of four former extremists. The film explores the motivations these people had to become involved in violent conflict, the consequences of their actions and their departure from the group that brought them to the brink.

Through this resource, young people are taken through a journey of understanding and learning about the causes and effects of violent extremism. Ultimately, the ideologically driven stories, that violent extremists perpetrate, is undermined by the powerful film that aims to show that violence and the chosen group didn’t solve anything.

The Foundation for Peace is well known for its work assisting victims of terrorism to cope and recover and in educating young people to resolve conflict without resorting to violence.  Now the charity has turned its attention to those people who are former extremists and has challenged them to share their experiences to prevent others from following the same path.

On Thursday 21st May 2015, the Foundation will launch ‘My Former Life,’ to an audience of local and national Government stakeholders and show a 20-minute extract from the film as well as demonstrating the supporting education materials.

Kelly Simcock, ‘My Former Life’ project leader said: “if we are to counter extremism that can lead people to turn to violence then we have to start early on the playground, in the classroom and youth groups, and provide young people with the resilience and abilities to think for themselves and reject the warped ideologies of violence and terrorism.

“The film and supporting education resource has been produced and tested over a period of two years and features former extremists who have been encouraged and persuaded to share what led them down a path of extremism and violent conflict.

“The film shows their journey and explores what has now changed their minds and describes why they have united with the Foundation to ‘fight’ for peace and to defeat ISIS and others who use violence and terrorism to further their aims.”

Joining us at the launch will be those whose stories are told through the film; a former female recruiter for an Islamist group; a former white supremacist from the United States; a former Irish Republican and a former jihadi fighter. Some of the people featured in the film will be speaking at the event, providing a rare opportunity for the audience to hear, first hand, about their experiences and motivations to share their stories.

The Foundation is aiming that every young person in this country gets the chance to see the film and take part in a short project ‘My Former Life’ to raise awareness and understanding to help those vulnerable to radicalising themselves and others to turn away from violent extremism.

For more information (from 21st May) visit www.myformerlife.org or on Twitter @Formers4peace or find us on Facebook, search My Former Life.


Notes :

The film is not available for general release as it is delivered as part of a facilitated education project.  An extract preview film is available for review and selected clips and audio and visual can be used in broadcast subject to permissions and an embargo of Thursday 21 May 2015 05:00.

Interviews with some of the film participants on the day at the Peace Centre launch from 10:00 until 12:00.  Expert interview available with Kelly Simcock, the Director of Commissions at the Tim Parry Johnathan Foundation for Peace, and who is the architect of this project and recognised as one of Europe’s leading experts in counter extremism education.  Biographies of the film subjects are available upon request.

More information:

The course takes one day to deliver to groups of no more than 30, delivered by professional facilitators at locations such as schools and colleges.  Those people who participate gain benefits in:

  • Critical and consequential cognitive thinking skills; the confidence and experience of thinking critically about one’s self, ‘the other’, as well as personal, social and political conflict and its consequences.  An increased appreciation for values complexity and a reduced susceptibility to extremist narratives follows
  • The ability to recognise how beliefs and values directly affect attitudes and behaviour – increased emotional intelligence and associated skills, with greater understanding of the effects of one’s own attitudes and behaviours on others, as well as confidence in belonging to multiple communities
  • An increased capacity for cognitive, emotional and compassionate empathy, and an ability to analyse the motivations’ for peoples’ behaviours, viewing things from a different perspective and overcoming fear of ‘the other’
  • Increased skills, confidence and capacity to manage and resolve personal, social and political conflicts. Participants acquire experience putting in to practice non-violent means to manage and resolve conflicts
  • The confidence to challenge simplistic narratives, air grievances constructively, interrogate complex arguments, as well as develop confidence in confronting persuasive and emotive rhetoric with autonomously generated alternative narratives
  • By analysing the content through the comprehensive debrief provided in the workshop – participants will become confident in understanding how people can be drawn towards groups and ideologies that offer a firm, black and white solution. They will become competent and confident in relaying to peers how radicalisation occurs and the futility of extremism and violence in achieving ones aims making them powerful agents for change

Through consultation with commissioners, school and other referral agencies participation in the programme, ‘My Former Life’ also helps those institutions in their response to the ideological challenge of violent extremism and its promoters. Participants will be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of those who may be or who are in danger of becoming radicalised and provide a positive antidote to the rhetoric and temptation that extremist narratives can provide. The programme will not only strengthen the understanding, resilience and resolve of the young participants, but it will strengthen those working with them in their understanding and enable them to provide appropriate support to prevent young people from being drawn into violence. 

© 2015 ‘My Former Life’ is a project of the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, the charity that works nationally and internationally to promote peace and non-violent conflict resolution.