It is three months, now, that I am here in Jamaica and I am very much inspired by the culture and geographical beauty of it. The most amazement was brought by the life, the beauty of its people, and especially the youth.
Recently I got a chance to be very close to the youth at Catholic Youth Summer Camp organized by the Diocese of Montego Bay. It gave me the opportunity to learn more about the youth and their country. I would like to share some of my reflections, which I have already shared formally and informally. They also became part of me, being present at Catholic Youth Summer Camp.
I firmly believe that the youth have a great role to play in any country, nation. It does not matter what they are, what language, color, or geographical background they come from. They have the power, energy, and potential to change and to transform their world for better or for worse.
So it becomes the obligation of the elders of that particular nation or country to empower their youth with a better environment so that they can play a better, enhanced, and authentic role to uplift their country at all levels: political, religious, social, and economic.
From this perspective I would like to take some of the features from the life story of Prophet Daniel, who is a great role model for the youth of our times. Though there are many other prophets and saints, too, but at present I am going to use some of the events from his life. Prophet Daniel was a great young man, with extraordinary qualities.
Daniel journeyed from ordinary to extraordinary. He was detained as a slave, and ended up becoming an advisor to the great king of those times. He was a young man who could take a firm stand without leaving his religion, culture, and wisdom of his elders.
When his nation, Israel, was taken into exile, he and some of his friends were chosen to stand in the court of the king. But before they could stand in the court of the king, they had to undergo three years of preparation.
One thing was very clear here: that the youth had to be given good formation before we could anticipate anything from them. Many times, people keep criticizing the youth – saying that they are not good, doing the things which they shouldn’t be doing. But the question is, “What are we offering them so that youth can feel that they are the future and responsible people of this country and nation?” If they are not doing anything, then why are they not doing it?
Maybe the elders or the leaders of the country at all levels have to take the counsel of king Nebuchadnezzar. He appointed dedicated people to give good faith formation, education, and accompaniment to their youth in order to achieve the required results from them.
In our times, I strongly believe that we need to work at the grass roots level to see that everyone gets equivalent opportunities to develop and prosper as one united nation.
There is a great need to build the culture of faith formation, education, and accompaniment for all. These have to be the first priority of governments, religious institutions and social sectors, to eliminate inequality, discrimination, and injustice found within the nation. We must fill up the gaps between poor and rich. Faith formation, education, and accompaniment are the main means through which youth can be cultured and can become good citizens of the country.
The other main objective is to give the youth a clear vision. Youth without a vision is like a body without life. The very vision has to be realistic, practical, and achievable in accordance with the national interests.
The king in the book of Daniel could wait for three years, which means he was really patient and serious about the growth and the welfare of his country. In our modern times an instant and secular culture is developing. Everywhere people are looking for instant change; just observe what media is offering us on TV and Internet…every thing will be ready instantly; food, clothing, health, sickness, life insurance, etc.. They tell you that you can be rich, happy, and on top of the world overnight, if you only use their products. All those above mentioned things start creating an imaginative and artificial world in the minds of the young people, who should instead be facing the realities of the real world.
Youth often become angry, depressed, and disappointed. This ultimately leads them to the criminal world or suicide. Every year the suicide rate is increasing among the youth. When such youth are seen as the future, it means that our future is at great risk. Who is responsible for this? Who is going to take this up seriously so that our future may be saved. Many children who wanted to be part of this youth summer camp, but could not afford the registration fee, were lucky to be sponsored by good, generous people. I am not denying the good efforts made by the good people around us, but there is always room to improve and do more.
The good thing about the prophet Daniel is that, as a young man, he could refuse all those good attractive things of his times, like eating the good food and wine offered by the king. This was against his religion’s values. His very attitude challenges the youth of our times, not to run after all those things which appear in the media, and ruin their lives for temporal enjoyments. His “no” to those things shows his firmness, keeping the power to choose with him and not allowing others to take away his inner freedom. This has to be the call, vocation, and dedication of our youth today.
I personally feel that youth have to be made aware and animated about the many good and bad things around them. Our cultural and national values are more essential than anything else. If they will not be made aware and animated of that, they will not be able to make right choices in their lives. Then they can’t be blamed if we, as leaders, don’t play our role, as the elders or responsible persons of this nation.
Youth always carry in themselves a pure soul which can make out what is right and what is wrong. They only need a positive push, mutual support, and encouragement so that they can grow and do a lot for the betterment and welfare of their country.
The king was amazed at Daniel’s wisdom. He wanted him to be close to him, for all kinds of counsel in the decisions which he had to make for his country and its people. This was only possible after getting good faith formation, education, and accompaniment from his elders and teachers. It is also interesting to see that, though he was taken as a slave to that country, he never stopped growing and was ready to deal with his circumstances with great wisdom. At one time we or our forefathers were also made slaves.
Whatever we are, whoever we are, it is because of our “ancestors” and their unending struggle to be free and liberated people. We should salute them all for the sacrifices they have made in their lives, so that we could be free people. I think the time has come to empower our youth, at all levels, so that they can shine like stars in our heavens.
May God bless our youth!
Friar Bernard Y Bhatti OFM
Mary Gate of Heaven,