TERRORISTS are using the internet to turn disaffected teenagers into jihadist fanatics within the space of a month, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, was expected to tell teachers yesterday, at a conference in London.
Cardinal Nichols was due to address the Secondary Leaders’ Conference of the Catholic Association of Teachers, Schools and Colleges and the Catholic Education Service. In the speech, Cardinal Nichols says that Roman Catholic pupils, particularly those aged 14 or 15, are vulnerable to the approaches of the Islamic State terror group, also known as Daesh.
“We are talking about the age of children in your schools, in your care,” he says. He explains that, in his conversations with young people, he has discovered that it is “clearly possible to bring a person to the point of being willing to leave all for the sake of their new-found cause, even to the point of embracing violence or suicide, within a four- or five-week period”.
He says: “One month is all it takes to transform a dissatisfied and disorientated teenager into a terrorist.”
Young people are vulnerable because of the sense of isolation and lack of meaning that they feel in their own lives, combined with easy access to the internet, he says. They are considered by the jihadists to be “clean skins” because they are not anchored by a strong sense of shared values, in many cases, or by deeply held beliefs, the Cardinal tells his audience.
“It is to teenagers such as these that the call of a definitive, demanding faith, one which asks for a heroic sacrifice in a wide cause for victory . . . is cast as a true fulfilment of all the unfocused yearning within them.”
Roman Catholic schools have a duty to counter such radicalisation by grounding pupils in a secure personal relationship with Jesus, and by helping them to cultivate a sense of vocation to the Christian life, the Cardinal says.
“The degree to which you achieve this, as many of you do, is the degree to which our schools will never be sending into the world ‘clean skins’, ready to be seduced by a corrupt and inhuman ideology, or by any other lesser versions of violence and degrading inhumanity that stalk our streets and our world today.”