It is a sign of how dangerous our world seems to have become that every time we look at the daily news, we are relieved if we learn there have been no major new terrorist attacks. It has been estimated, for example, that in Europe alone the last two months have seen attacks every 84 hours.
And just in case the frequency of these attacks loses their ability to shock, the extremists sink to ever new depths of depravity. In the last few weeks, we have witnessed children slaughtered while watching a firework display in Nice and the bombing of peaceful protestors in Kabul, shoppers in Baghdad and air passengers in Istanbul. We have seen, too, mass shootings at a nightclub in Orlando and a café in Dhaka, not too mention the hospital bombings in Quetta.
Churches, mosques, the holiest sites, and hospitals are no longer places of sanctuary but deliberate targets. In an attack of individual savagery, an 85-year-old priest had his throat cut while conducting a service in a Normandy church. There seems no limit to the barbarity of those behind these attacks.
While violence globally is on the rise, Kazakhstan has also seen its own acts of terrorism. The attacks in Aktobe seem to have been carried out by our own nationals but encouraged and ordered, even if indirectly, from abroad. Radicalisation also appears to have played a part in the murderous criminal assault on law enforcement officers in Almaty more recently.
This showed that the threat from terrorism is serious even for a country with an international reputation for having built a stable and tolerant society with people from many different backgrounds living in peace together. This success makes it easy to forget that Kazakhstan is located in a region where violent extremism has a solid presence.
The frequency and ferocity of all these attacks across the world has a purpose. They are designed to spread a climate of fear and increase tensions and divisions in both individual societies and the international community as a whole. It is why we must be steadfast in our response to refuse to allow the extremists to drive us apart.
We must also remember that, despite what our enemy wants us to believe, these attacks are not launched from a position of strength. The radical hate-filled groups behind them find themselves, in fact, under growing pressure.
They are losing territory fast in Iraq and Syria where once they seemed unstoppable. In Libya, too, they are in retreat. International action is cutting off the funding they need to pay their fighters and weapons. Against this background, the increased attacks can be seen as an attempt to hide failure and to maintain relevance to the weak and disenchanted who are their potential recruits.
But as the daily news tragically underlines, we can’t sit around and expect the threat, ideology and appeal of violent extremism simply to fade away. We have to do more both individually and collectively to counter it.
Security services, for example, have to be given the resources to keep citizens safe. Barriers to the sharing of intelligence between countries must be removed.
We have to recognise as well how adept extremists are at exploiting divisions and resentment. They thrive in areas of conflict as the Middle East and North Africa show. International efforts to settle violent disputes must be redoubled.
The extremists feed, too, on the despair brought by grinding poverty and loss of hope. It would be foolish, of course, to believe that tackling unfairness and disadvantage in our world would end recruitment to these barbarous groups. But a concerted attempt to remove these grievances, as well as being the right step in itself, would undoubtedly reduce the attractiveness of their warped ideology.
There must be increased attempts as well to foster understanding between faiths and focus on the values they have in common. This has been a major priority for Kazakhstan for many years, which has also backed calls within the global Muslim community of the need to heal divisions in own ranks.
Achieving all these goals needs concerted political leadership. It is why President Nazarbayev urged the United Nations to take the lead. Only the UN has the global authority to bring countries together to agree and deliver a comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy and coalition. Kazakhstan must use its position on the UN Security Council to argue this case forcefully.
Defeating violent extremism will take time and effort. But with determined global leadership, we can squeeze the life out of this menace to the benefit of all our safety so the daily news reflects a world at greater peace.