The young people are facing a lot of challenges. Most of the issues we are facing in our society today are directly or indirectly related to the young people. The only way we can address the problem facing our society is to confront most of the challenges facing the youths. The liberation of the youths is indeed the liberation of our society. Our Church cannot even develop without the youths. One of the reasons why we have not succeeded is because the youths have not succeeded. In his forth-coming synod of Young people, faith and vocational Discernment, the Holy Father, Pope Francis was able to capture most of the challenges facing the young people. According to him,
“In many parts of the world, young people are experiencing particular hardships which pose difficulties for them in making real choices in life, because they have not even the minimal possibility to exercise freedom. This situation includes young people experiencing poverty and exclusion; those who grow up without parents or family, or are unable to go to school; children and young boys and girls who live on the street in many suburbs; the young who are unemployed, displaced persons and migrants; those who are victims of exploitation, trafficking and slavery; children and young people forcefully recruited in criminal gangs or as guerilla fighters; and child brides or girls forced to marry against their will. Too many in the world pass directly from childhood to adulthood and a burden of responsibility they were unable to choose. Oftentimes female children, little girls and young women face even greater difficulties than their peers.” This sums up most of the challenges facing the young people today. From this passage, we can deduce the following challenges facing the young people:
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING HARDSHIP: This is true of most young people, especially those in Nigeria and Africa at large. Could you believe that some of our young people could not afford their daily bread due to hardship? To gain admission into higher institution one has to pay through his or her noise. you can as well imagine the kind of hardship those who are living either as refugees or Internally Displaced Persons are facing.
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FINDING IT VERY DIFFICULT TO MAKE CHOICE IN LIFE: Most of our young people are not free to make reasonable choice in life. Most of them are so confused. Gone were the days when young people were assure of employment after their graduation. As a result most our young people, even those at schools are not sure of their future carrier. This makes it very difficult for choice making.
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING POVERTY AND EXCLUSION: Our young people are getting poorer and poorer by day. There are young graduates who are still depending on their parents for their daily bread due to poverty. Unfortunately, here in Nigeria in most parts of the world money seen as the ultimate value. Most of our young people are excluded because of money. Poor children, no matter how brilliant they may be cannot afford private and even missionary school education. Politics, as many believe is not for the poor ones. That is why we have the wrong ones as our leaders whereas those who have the leadership callings and qualities are not recognized. They are rather excluded for lack of money.
YOUNG PEOPLE WHO GROW UP WITHOUT PARENTS OR FAMILY: The number of orphans we have in our society today in unimaginable. Imagine the hundreds of people that are murdered either by Boko Harram or the so-called herdsmen. with the death of these men you can now imagine the number of orphans and vulnerable children this has caused in our society. That is why we have so many street children in our society today. Most of these children are sleeping under the bridge, some of them at the waste bin. The worst thing that can happen to any child is to grow without parents or even family. And unfortunately this is what is happening in our society today. If proper care is not taken some of these children usually end up in the hands of bad gang and they will in turn start terrorizing the society.
One of the solutions to the problems facing the youths is care for the orphans. It is not just the solution to the challenges facing the youths, it is also the solution to most of the problems facing our society, especially the problem of insecurity. That why the author of James 1:27 declares, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” From this passage it is obvious that any religion that does not cater for the orphans is not a pure and genuine religion.
YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE UNABLE TO GO TO SCHOOL: During school hours you will find vulnerable children and even young men and women who are supposed to be in class with their fellow children roaming about the streets. Some of them are hawking just to get little money for feeding in order to survive. Often when you ask these children why they are not in school they will respond, “I have nobody to pay my school fees.” Some of these children are intelligent and talented. But who cares?
CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WHO LIVE ON THE STREET: As the Holy father rightly observed there are “Children and young boys and girls who live on the street in many suburbs.” These children are everywhere not just in the street but also in major highways. Some of them are the ones you see hawking sachet water in most junctions on our highways. They are children and young boys and girls who even sleep in market places and under the bridges ion cities.
YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE UNEMPLOYED: We have so many of them here in Nigeria. One of the major causes of unemployment is the unwilling of the elderly ones to retire and handover to younger generations. Another major cause of unemployment is the introduction of ATM. Nowadays machines are doing the work which human beings are supposed to do. ATM has taken the place of most Cashiers. Even the so-called cashless system is also contributing to unemployment. Bank halls that used to fill with workers are now empty. Most of the banks have reduced their workers so as to make more profits. Of course, we should not ignore the havoc privatization has caused.
YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE DISPLACE AND MIGRANTS: The insecurity in our country has resulted to people fleeing their homeland. We have so many Internally Displaced Persons in country today. Most of our young ones are even trooping out of the country. A good number of number have lost their lives in the sea while others are have ended up into slavery or even prison. No matter how comfortable the government or non-governmental organizations will try to make these IDP or refugee camps look, east or west home remains the best!
YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE VICTIMS OF EXPLOITATION, TRAFFICKING AND SLAVERY: Most of the pictures we are getting from places like Libya shows that most of our young people are in deep bondage. Most of them are sexually exploited. Most of them are sold into slavery, where they experience the worst inhuman treatment.
CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE FORCEFULLY RECRUITED IN CRIMINAL GANGS OR AS GUERILLA FIGHTERS: Unfortunately, not all the robbers are born to be robbers. There are so many young people who are forced into robbery against their will. A good number of young people end up become robbers through initiation into cultism. Even some young people are initiated against their will while other were initiated due to hardship and bad friends.
YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN WHO ARE FORCED INTO MARRIAGE AGAINST THEIR WILL: This is common here in Africa, especially amongst the Muslims and traditional societies. Child brides is system where the bride prize of the girl is collected by the parents earlier in her life, often against her will. In most cases the girls are even forced to marry against their will. Such marriages end up as another form of slavery.
The upcoming synod is meant to address some of these existential issues facing the young people. As the universal ecclesia advocates for practical pastoral care for the youths, the Church in Nigeria should not be indifferent to the needs of the youths. I appeal to the Shepherds and Pastors in Africa to join the Holy Father in this noble campaign for the practical pastoral care of the youths. Thus, building the youths is building the church and even the society at large!