By Neilan Sylvester D’souza
We all know that the 12th of August is celebrated as International Youth Day; around this time we also come across many slogans which shout that “Youth of today are leaders tomorrow”, “Youth are the face of Change”, “Young and active citizens of the country will take us to great heights”, “Youth voices and ideas must be heard” and many more on a similar note. On 13th of August everything goes back to normal, the celebrated ‘Youth’ become secondary citizens, and there is barely any importance given to their thoughts and ideas in most decision making areas; youth often get looked down for being inexperienced, disinterested and irrelevant. The celebration of International Youth Day in most cases lives and dies on the same day, we could also relate this to other commemorative days, regardless.
Pause for a moment, take time and observe the Youth today. As a youth myself, I can proudly say that youth today are not the same, they are better aware, more knowledgeable, better skilled and hard working, but also under a lot of stress and pressure. Let me put my observations into context. Last month ALL Forum spent time with Indonesian Youth by facilitating our program called Moving School in Bogor; we had around 36 participants mainly Indonesian Youth from catholic youth movements and also an Islamic minority group – Ahamadiyya Muslims.
Even for ALL Forum it was a first, to bring together so many Christian and Muslim participants together in one place for a week long physical program since the past two years due to the pandemic. Our learning’s were enriched ever more because of the interreligious interactions which the youth were having. Never have I seen collaboration like this among strangers looking to learn and work together. We must pause, take time and recognise that among today’s youth there exists a pluralistic culture; mutual respect for sensitive religious practices; zeal to learn, understand as well as collaborate for matters of justice and peace; strong emotion and care towards the environment; and determination towards common good; against corruption and intolerant towards hate.
From this International Youth day on, let us not reduce today’s youths’ determination for change and care for creation and climate only as a viral trend, but instead, let us bridge the gaps, join hands, become inclusive and collaborate on every level so that we can form them as leaders for tomorrow.