As the government of Robert Mugabe encourages gangs of young people to rampage around the country beating up people and destroying property, the Jesuits in Zimbabwe have issued the following letter: The God of the Old Testament, and the Jesus of the New Testament, both have a special care for the smallest, weakest, most vulnerable people. In conflict situations this frequently translates into a special care for women and children. That is equally true in our present situation. However, there is another category who are especially vulnerable, and who are being particularly targeted, manipulated and exploited by powerful people in Zimbabwe today. These are the youth. In many nations young people engage in nation building activities and genuine community service. They enthusiastically take up legitimate party political activities of putting up posters, announcing rallies, singing party songs etc. However, in Zimbabwe, unemployed young people are being recruited to do nasty and dangerous ground work for a political party. They are being paid for the work of beating, stoning, burning, and maybe even killing their own fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. Churches and religious organisations regard the education and training of youth as crucial to the health of society. The churches have long been involved in primary and secondary schools, study groups, informal education, skills training, youth groups, and AIDS education. The Church regards the family as the foundation of human society. It is therefore the fundamental right and duty of parents to decide on the education of their children. The present attempts to re-educate and indoctrinate the youth into values which are alien to the African family are an attack on the family and on the rights of parents. Not only are these youth being recruited and trained in illegal and criminal activities but, in the process, they are also being corrupted. Unscrupulous political leaders are training them in violence, not only for the present, but for a life time. Peace will eventually return to Zimbabwe. We ask the youth to consider their future after the elections. Do you young people realise that you will then be abandoned by your political elders? Do you think you will continue to receive cash payments after the elections? Do you really believe you'll receive the promised jobs? Consider the values of your own tradition and culture. Does this allow you to beat your own parents? All this reminds us of the methods of opportunistic political leaders of other times and places. For example, during Hitler's rule in Germany, young people were recruited under the guise of patriotism and nation building. They were then used by their leaders as agents of terror and death, which ultimately brought about the destruction of an entire nation. We therefore appeal to the youth of Zimbabwe to be aware of these dangers.We call on the youth to recognise when elders attempt to manipulate them to do criminal work. Remember, this nation is not at war: it is simply preparing for an election. After that election, with the help of God, the nation will return to normality. But if bands of youth persist in violent activities, they could bring the nation to a state of civil war. We appeal to the youth to recognise the dangers of getting caught up in mob hysteria. Politicians will harangue and incite you to do things you would never normally do. Those politicians will then disappear, and deny having any part in it, leaving you to take the consequences of your actions. We appeal to parents, teachers, and pastors to alert their children, their students, their flock to these dangers. We appeal to political leaders to desist from manipulating, exploiting and corrupting the youth of our nation. We appeal to politicians to cease their hypocrisy. They preach peace before the glare of television cameras, while inciting violence under cover of darkness. Such behaviour is irresponsible, and a betrayal of the nation. The good of the nation is infinitely more important than the good of any political party. Political parties come and go, while the nation, the state, remains.
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