THE IDEALISM OF YOUTH
(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)
Mary Ann, the daughter of a man who migrated from Finland to Australia and after he made a successful business, he came to live and marry in the Philippines. He died in a tragic death and his wife left with another man who wasted the family resources on vice and drugs. The three children were left homeless and abandoned.
Mary Ann went looking for work at 14 years old and was innocent and vulnerable and was trafficked into the sex business of Angeles City like thousands of young girls these days exploited as money making object by politicians, police and foreign bar operators, immune from prosecution to the shame of the Philippine people.
Mary Ann was rescued quickly by a human rights group and went on a new life at the Preda Children's home and is at college today. Last July 2008 she was in Sydney, now a lead player of the Preda youth theater group that was retelling dramatically a story similar to her life.
The prayer and piety of the thousands of Catholic youth that flocked to Sydney for the World Youth Day was impressive and inspiring to many. The theatre groups from Philippines Preda-Akbay, Australian students and Afro- Brazilians made impressive presentations to thousands of youth to bring them to see that a vital part of faith helping oppressed people free themselves and gain a life of justice and dignity. The Afro-Brazilian Group, Cena Um, from Salvador, showed their own history when their forebears were abducted and enslaved to enrich western society.
The Australian students showed the cruelty of modern slavery in sweat shop prisons the poor making clothes for the rich developed world. The Preda group led by Mary Ann showed the environmental destruction of corporate greed that causes poverty and makes youth vulnerable by being sold into sex slavery or foreign traveling sex offenders.
These charismatic advocates of human rights are the evangelists and missionaries of today challenging other youth and the church to realize the heart of Christianity is to denounce evil and work for good and make Jesus Christ and his mission present in the world. That Christians have work to end exploitation, racism, exploitation, child abuse and every kind of evil. If we adults, parents, pastors, leaders don’t practice it, the young people will think we condone wrongdoing and are guilty of cover up. For them, silence is a form of consent or cowardly connivance.
If faith remains just and pity for poor and devotional piety supported by sentimental sermons without action for the poor and the oppressed then quickly the temptations of the world soon eats up their immature faith and they fall away. Many catholic parents and pastors wonder why their children have lost interest in their church, religion and going to Mass and hardly any in the western world are volunteering to become priests and pastors.
It’s because their pastors and community perhaps failed to give the example of unwavering commitment and involvement in taking a stand for justice and human rights and speaking out on important human rights issues with a prophetic voice as Jesus of Nazareth did. Young people are filled with the longing for their idealism to be made welcome and given a role and expression in such prophetic Christian action. We have to make it possible for them.
The youth want to live a committed and active life of faith for justice. They want something meaningful to bring to the altar of the Eucharist and be reminded in the braking of bread together that Jesus of Nazareth spoke out, blessed the poor and gave them the Kingdom, he challenged the rich and the powerful to change their evil ways and was executed for his stand.
Their desire to imitate Christ was made so clear in the opening of the theater presentation, where a crucified figure was symbolically transformed from a burdened and oppressed person and brought from death to life. This is the very mystery the youth want to make a reality in the world today - transforming a culture of evil, death and corruption to one of freedom dignity and equality. We have to give them that opportunity or we fail. END
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Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines.
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