She is a passionate human rights and rule of law-driven professional with a focus on understanding and countering violence-promoting extremism, using methods and tools that support young people in living better with difference and disagreement. She is also an advocate for seeing and promoting the relatives of youth in violent extremist milieus as critical resources in the work to counter violence promoting extremism.
Together with colleague Sacharias Wiren and in partnership with the University of Cambridge, Umeå University, and Uppsala University, Malena supports the work of IC Sweden, an evidence-based intervention for young people at the intersection of public mental health promotion and prevention of black-and-white thinking, extremism, and polarization. Her interests lie in understanding how to better support young people towards living well with difference and disagreement, and developing interventions based on these understandings.
Malena is a trained Middle East analyst with a focus on security policy. She has gained extensive operational knowledge of countering violence, promoting extremism and terrorism in her role as Chief Analyst for Counterterrorism at the Swedish Security Service. She has also investigated war crimes and crimes against humanity for the UN, headed the Swedish Red Cross in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and worked on security sector reform for the EU in Afghanistan. Malena brings practical experience as well as operational and strategic perspective to the programme.
Sacharias holds a MA in Religious Studies, focusing on Psychology of religion, and a second MA in Religion in Peace and Conflict, both from Uppsala University. He is currently Education Manager at Fryshuset, working together with his colleague Jane Braden-Golay to build up a Swedish IC Thinking (ICT) program, an evidence-based intervention that aims to prevent black-and-white thinking, destructive conflicts, and polarization. The program is being developed in partnership with the University of Cambridge, Umeå University, and Uppsala University.
Sacharias area of interest is intergroup relations and religion, focusing on violence and prejudice. In connection to this, he also has an interest in preventive work to reduce prejudice and violent extremism. Sacharias has previously examined religiously motivated violence focusing on the Christian terror network the Army of God. He has also examined and evaluated interfaith interventions aimed at reducing prejudice.