On February 20th - February 25th, SACIV was fortunate to host five European visitors from Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Portugal and United Kingdom for an IVLP program examining “Countering Violent Extremism: Community Strategies." Participants traveled to San Antonio for the opportunity to be introduced to faith and community based CVE efforts, to discuss law enforcement and community policing programs, and to explore social integration and inclusion of immigrants and refugees.
They began by attending a panel discussion between members of different faith-based organizations throughout the city who discussed the common challenges and opportunities faced. The panelists included representatives from the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, the Christian Unity Ministries, the Muslim Children’s Foundation and Civic Center, and the Hindu Temple of San Antonio. The discussion covered a variety of topics on how faith based organizations engage diverse or minority groups, how they react to the world's breaking news locally, as well as how they mediate conflicts between their beliefs and the needs of the community to respect and adapt to changing social norms.
After lunch the IVLP guests spoke with a volunteer from the Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC), who shared about this faith-based movement that seeks to address the needs of asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. They heard about how the Coalition includes more than 400 volunteers working to help the recent influx of migrants who have come to San Antonio.
Later that day, the visitors headed to a meeting with representatives of the Big Brothers Big Sisters, who provided them with a tour of their facilities and answered a number of questions concerning their model of mentorship across the country and the world.
Saturday evening was special for our delegation as they met with SACIV’s members in smaller groups for home hospitality. Each delegate had a face-to-face conversation sharing their experience and thoughts about vital topics of everyday life.
On Sunday our visitors headed to the Hill Country tour. These attractions form a loop starting in San Antonio and taking in Bandera, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock, Johnson City, and New Braunfels, before returning to San Antonio.
The next day began with a meeting with representatives of the FBI Headquarters in San Antonio, which allowed the guests to discuss several world-known issues and the process of how the FBI representatives work abroad and within the United States. The representatives of the FBI explained how most of thier current work surrounds issues of domestic terrorism rather then international terrorism. This encouraged the visitors to ask questions about their efforts aimed to make the community aware of the destructive reality of various forms of violent extremism.
After lunch, the visitors headed to a meeting with the San Antonio Police Department and specifically, with the officers of thier SAFFE Unit, who talked about their focus to identify, evaluate, and resolve community crime problems with the cooperation and participation of community residents. The delegation discussed different approaches on how to work closely with both residents and the district patrol officers assigned to those areas.
That evening, they were invited as the guests of honor to the SACIV’s “Membership Reception” event where they were able to mix and mingle with SACIV’s members and the local community over hor d'oeuvres. This was a wonderful evening filled with the opportunities to meet new friends and share experiences and information about their respective countries.
The group enjoyed the rich history and diversity of San Antonio which provided them with a holistic view of the United States through the lenses of a unique southern city. We are very grateful for all our partnering organizations who welcomed these guests and enabled them to explore how different sectors of American society work together to resist violent extremism, including government, academia, civic society, religious communities and the private sector. #ExchangeMatters