by Fabian Oliver

Young people, united?

The Catholic Church’s focus for this year is mainly on the SYNOD for youth. The church wants to know the struggles and joys in young people’s lives. The goal of this theme, one might suggest, is to find ways to bring the saving message of Jesus and the Love of God to young people wherever they might be. Another suggestion might be that young people are the church of today and also of the future, hence they are to be nurtured and guided in the path of being and becoming the Church of Hope, Faith and Love. Therefore, the Church hopes to unite young people so that they can be united in the one body of Jesus Christ (Gal 3:18). But are youth in South Africa united? Or even on the path of being one?

You know my name, but not my story!

The message of Jesus which teaches us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves is the key for Christian growth. But who is this neighbour? And how do we love them if we don’t actually know them? There is the harsh reality where we have built walls between ourselves that keep us from actually knowing and uniting with each other. There is racism in which discrimination takes place because of one’s skin color. There is tribalism, in which discrimination takes place because on one’s ethnic cultural background (e.g. Zulu’s hating Tsonga people). There is sexism in which discrimination takes place due to one’s gender. There is homophobia, which leads to discrimination against another based on their sexual orientation. There is xenophobia which leads to the discrimination against the other based on their nationality. There are more secular rather unexplainable ones in which people “just” dislike each other: based on how we dress, how we look and even how poor or rich we are.

These and many other walls hinder and separate us, instead of a fostering fraternal unity. When people reduce others based on race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. they fail to see the fullness of who the person truly is. They become people who know the name, but not the story; they become people who look but do not see.

The Power of Story telling (based on the initiative of Heartlines’ ‘What’s your story’)

The Bible is a very important book and it is no wonder that 70% of the Bible consists of stories. When we listen to people’s stories it helps us understand them for who they are. Stories break down the walls that stereotypes have built. Stories give us history and connect us with people to allow empathy and sympathy to take over judgment and prejudice. Through stories we are able to cry with the afflicted and oppressed and allow healing to take place in their lives. Stories allow us to connect with the heart of others, understand our differences and finally unite as one people who desire the fullness of life (Jn 10: 10).

If young people are to be the future leaders both in church and in society, they must be able to reach out to the needs of each other, and while knowing someone’s story does not reach out to their needs directly, it certainly paves the way.

Young people Unite

The universal translation of ‘Ubuntu’ is “I am because we are”. This I offer as a value we all ought to have in order to achieve unity. Despite race, gender, class, religion, age, nationality, etc. we must see ourselves alive (firstly through the grace of God) and existing through and for the fulfillment of other people and creation all over the world.

In unity we answer the prayer of Jesus who prayed to God saying, “Abba, let them be one as you and I are one!” (John 17:20).

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