On Wednesday 12 August the world will observe the UN's International Youth Day (IYD) on the theme: "Youth Engagement for Global Action". The theme seeks "to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes, as well as draw lessons on how their representation and engagement in formal institutional politics can be significantly enhanced.
"Enabling the engagement of youth in formal political mechanisms does increase the fairness of political processes by reducing democratic deficits, contributes to better and more sustainable policies, and also has symbolic importance that can further contribute to restore trust in public institutions, especially among youth. Moreover, the vast majority of challenges humanity currently faces, such as the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change require concerted global action and the meaningful engagement and participation of young people to be addressed effectively.
"The aim of IYD 2020 is to shed light on the need to enable the engagement of youth by making local, national and global institutions more inclusive for the purpose of strengthening their capacity (and relevance) to achieve global action."
Our youth can only engage effectively in local, regional and global action if we create conditions/provide opportunities that will allow them to share their gifts and talents. We should not leave it up to educational institutions to educate our youth e.g. through a social studies curriculum, about their roles and responsibilities in society/the world. Parents, as the first educators, should be raising their awareness as part of the parenting process; and parish ministries have a role to play in this process also if we are to nurture our youth to participate effectively and efficiently in society. Policy-makers must ensure that the voices of youth inform legislation, policies, and procedures.
Where is our platform to facilitate on-going dialogue with our youth? What are we doing to empower our youth to participate in building the common good; to raise their awareness not only of their rights, but also of their responsibilities? Are they "engaged" or are they disaffected?
As Pope Francis reminded us in 2015, we are "destined to live in community with one another and God to create and organise our communities together... we are all responsible for the development of society and social transformation. Participation is a call to engage fully and consciously in the life of a wider society. Caritas Europa advocates participation foremost as a clear option for solidarity, co-responsibility, the decision to be a constructive member of the family of God, to work for the common good."
He said: "Participation is also about supporting others in their decision-making and their activities. We all have different gifts and talents. Empowering others to unveil their talents and do their best is both a gift and a call, which can make a real change for a better world. "
Pope Francis has said that young people should be given important responsibilities within our Church. I urge you to read Pope Francis' 2019 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit (Christ is alive), addressed to young people and to the entire people of God. This document was issued in response to a global Synod of Bishops in October 2018 that focused on the needs of young people today.
Inter alia, the Holy Father said that the Church must humbly acknowledge "that some things concretely need to change, and if that is to happen, she needs to appreciate the vision but also the criticisms of young people." He said some young people want a church that "listens more, that does more than simply condemn the world...To be credible to young people, there are times when [the church] needs to regain her humility and simply listen, recognizing that what others have to say can provide some light to help her better understand the Gospel." http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20190325_christus-vivit.html
COVID-19 has increased the challenges that youth face, including youth unemployment in many parts of the world. This World Youth Day, let us all commit, one way or the other - within our own spheres of influence, to invest in our youth. Let us think about ways in which each of us can contribute to their development/build their capacity to be productive, innovative citizens e.g. as role models, mentors, advisors, and advocates.
Leela Ramdeen is Chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, (CCSJ) and Director of CREDI
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