By Fr. Ugochukwu Stophynus Anyanwu
There is need to weep for the young people who are facing generational crisis. They are like the rudder of a ship that is losing bearing in the middle of an ocean. Some experiences of young people in the world today call for tears. They have been entrapped between the charybdis and syclla. In today’s rapidly changing world, many young people are exposed to suffering and manipulation: ideological, political, social, cultural and economic. They are at crossroads because institutions of reference are failing them. They are used and dumped in the spirit of the throwaway culture characteristic of our age.
The youths are living in a world in crisis; a world that jokes and gambles with the future generation. We ought to acknowledge with deep sorrow that “many young people today live in war zones and experience violence in countless different forms: kidnapping, extortion, organized crime, human trafficking, slavery and sexual exploitation, wartime rape. Some have been trapped in the rings of prostitution. Other young people, because of their faith, struggle to find their place in society and endure various kinds of persecution, even murder. Many young people, whether by force or lack of alternatives, live by committing crimes and acts of violence: child soldiers, armed criminal gangs, drug trafficking, terrorism, and so on. This violence destroys many young lives. Abuse and addiction, together with violence and wrongdoing, are some of the reasons that send young people to prison and untimely death. (Cf Pope Francis, Christus vivit, n, 72)
Many young people are taken in by ideologies, used and exploited as cannon fodder or a strike force to destroy, terrify or ridicule others. Worse yet, many of them end up as individualists, hostile and distrustful of others; in this way, they become an easy target for the brutal and destructive strategies of political groups or economic powers. Even more numerous in the world are young people who suffer forms of marginalization and social exclusion for religious, ethnic or economic reasons. Let us not forget the difficult situation of adolescents and young people who become pregnant, the scourge of abortion, the spread of HIV, various forms of addiction (drugs, gambling, pornography and so forth), and the plight of street children without homes, families or economic resources” (Christus Vivit 73-74). Young people also experience setbacks, disappointments and profoundly painful memories. Often they feel the hurt of past failures, frustrated desires, experiences of discrimination and injustice, of feeling unloved and unaccepted. Then there are moral wounds, the burden of past errors, a sense of guilt for having made mistakes.
Institutions of reference to which the young people look up for guidance: the Church and other human communities should never fail to weep before these tragedies of our younger ones. May they never become inured to them, for anyone incapable of tears cannot be a mother. We want to weep so that society itself can be more of a mother, so that in place of killing it can learn to give birth, to become a promise of life. We weep when we think of all those young people who have already lost their lives due to poverty and violence, and we ask society to learn to be a caring mother. None of this pain goes away; it stays with us, because the harsh reality can no longer be concealed. The worst thing we can do is to adopt that worldly spirit whose solution is simply to anaesthetize young people with other messages, with other distractions, with trivial pursuits like the BB Naija programs.
As Pope Francis has remarked: “those of us who have a reasonably comfortable life don’t know how to weep. Some realities in life are only seen with eyes cleansed by tears. I would like each of you to ask yourselves these questions: Can I weep? Can I weep when I see a child who is starving, raped, on drugs or on the street, homeless, abandoned, mistreated or exploited as a slave by society? Or is my weeping only the self-centered whining of those who cry because they want something else? Try to learn to weep for all those young people less fortunate than yourselves. Weeping is also an expression of mercy and compassion. If tears do not come, ask the Lord to give you the grace to weep for the sufferings of others. Once you can weep, then you will be able to help others from the heart.” (Christus vivit , 75).
At times, the hurt felt by some young people is heart-rending, a pain too deep for words. They can only tell God how much they are suffering, and how hard it is for them to keep going, since they no longer believe in anyone. Yet in that sorrowful plea, the words of Jesus make themselves heard: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:4). Some young men and women were able to move forward because they heard that divine promise. May all young people who are suffering feel the closeness of a Christian community that can reflect those words by its actions, its embrace and its concrete help (Christus vivit, 77)
Dear young people, kindly give heed to this fraternal counsel of Pope Benedict XVI to you: “Enticements of all kinds may tempt you: ideologies, sects, money drugs , casual sex, violence…Be vigilant: those who propose these things to you want to destroy your future! In spite of difficulties, do not be discouraged and do not give up your ideals, your hard work and your commitment to your human intellectual and spiritual formation! In order to grow in discernment, along with the strength and the freedom needed to resist these pressures, I encourage you to place Jesus Christ at the centre of your lives through prayer, but also through the study of Sacred Scripture, frequent recourse to the sacraments, formation in the Church’s social teaching, and your active and enthusiastic participation in ecclesial groups and movements. Cultivate a yearning for fraternity, justice and peace. The future is in the hands of those who find powerful reasons to live and to hope. If you want it, the future is in your hands, because the gifts that the Lord has bestowed upon each one of you, strengthened by your encounter with Christ, can bring genuine hope to the world. (Africae Munus, 63).