Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Why a lack of trust?

The Trustbuilding Program projects focus on restoring trust in areas where it is currently broken or building trust where it is non-existent. Why is there a lack of trust in these different countries, or more specifically, these regions? Here is a summary of the local trust issues our project teams are tackling.


Kenya has witnessed multiple terror attacks and inter-ethnic clashes especially in the coastal region of Mombasa and North Eastern region of Garissa. This has not only created mistrust and tension, but also hate, stigma and negative perception among communities living together in the region where the tension has been fueled by political divisions and clan differences in a combined struggle for power. In both Mombasa and Garissa, the major religions practiced in the city are Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.

Mombasa has a cosmopolitan population, with the Swahili people [1] and Mijikenda [2] predominant. Over the centuries, many immigrants and traders have settled in Mombasa, particularly from the Middle East, Somalia, and the Indian sub-continent. Radicalization of young people into terror groups has been on the rise, which has affected the tourism sector, adversely scaring tourists away which has led to an economic slowdown and idle youth who become involved in drug abuse and crime.

Garissa is predominantly inhabited by Kenyan Somalis. Garissa has the third largest refugee complex of the country. Terrorists, firearms and human traffickers are among the threats perceived by Kenya's government along the boundary with Somalia. Various terror attacks have happened causing deaths, fear, mistrust and tension. People from other parts of Kenya, especially those who are not Muslim, have rejected employment opportunities in the region for fear of attack. The attack on Garissa University [3] in April 2015 is still too recent for many to believe that the area is safe.


Canada’s multiculturalism has created a diverse country, but not without political, social and societal challenges such as racial tensions arising out of ignorance and fear, xenophobia, and religious acts of violence. The Province of Quebec is a microcosm of the wider Canada, with the added complexity of identity, nationalism, linguistic difference, illegal immigration, religious tensions, and the long-standing history of oppression and colonization of Canada’s first peoples.

The way that Europeans have treated indigenous, or first nations, people since their arrival has left generations of negative impacts on the communities' lives, livelihoods, languages, culture and spirituality on these people. The deep wounds inflicted are still a source of social stigmas and strained relationships resulting in increased systemic marginalization of the indigenous peoples. The discrimination and mistreatment have not changed with the passing years.

Tragedies like the 29 January 2017 mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque [4], previous political attempts to implement legislation limiting immigration and current legislation presented by the CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec) Government limiting the wearing of religious symbols, highlight the existence of deep-rooted mistrust and intolerance in Quebec.


There is a deep unease among the youth living in the suburbs of French cities who have emigrated from other parts of the world. They suffer from identity crisis, school truancy and a difficulty envisioning a positive future. They do not feel accepted or trusted by French society and believe that they are not ‘real French people’ but instead victims. At the end of 2015, youth violence rapidly escalated in France and lasted several weeks as a result of this mistrust and lack of understanding. The desire to confront society can lead to radicalization and several hundreds of young people left France to join Daesh in Syria.

Radicalization often occurs in young people from Muslim backgrounds, but from other backgrounds as well. They do not follow this path to radicalization due to religious conviction, but because of their unease, frustrations or failures in their own lives. They reject the society that makes them feel like victims and have chosen to confront this in a violent way.

In Paris these problems often occur with young people living in parts of the city identified as: ‘zones d’éducation prioritaire [5]’, defined by the government as areas with poverty and social problems.

The Trustbuilding Program [6] is aimed at addressing divisive issues at the international and national levels, on the premise that only those who have undergone the internal process of becoming trustworthy themselves can close gaps across the globe. The Program was launched by Initiatives of Change International in 2019 with projects in Kenya, Canada and France.