Beirut (AsiaNews) Ahmed Fatfat was recently appointed as Lebanese Youth Minister. A Sunni Muslim, he told AsiaNews he wants to draw inspiration from John Paul II. On the eve of the departure of 6,000 Lebanese to Cologne, he wanted to meet a delegation and he told AsiaNews about his concerns and about the value of youth in Lebanon.
"Everyone has the impression that the youth ministry is one of secondary importance, the sort of ministry without a portfolio," Fatfat told AsiaNews. "But my task is to promote the role of youths in society. I feel a great need to invest in the enormous potential that is Lebanese youth and which so far has been put aside, as John Paul II said in his post-synod apostolic exhortation 'A new hope for Lebanon'. "
Ahmed Fatfat is very close to Saad Hariri, the son of the former prime minister murdered in an attack on 14 February. His death provoked waves of emotions and a commitment to expel Syrian soldiers from Lebanon: they were suspected of being behind the assassination. Christian and Muslim youths played an important role in the demonstrations and sit-ins which lasted for days in the capital.
"What amazed me is discovering that youths in Lebanon are less denominational in their approach than their parents and grandparents and they are more open than emotional.
"The world is changing so fast that we are always in need of new ideas in all fields and only youths can bring this innovation."
According to the minister, the alternative would be a "sclerotic society held captive by its assumptions". Without youths, "society will not manage to get back on its feet".
He said: "These youths have great potential from the political point of view as well as from a perspective of scientific development and it would be a shame not to exploit it. They are creators of ideas, but the only role we have assigned them so far is that of waiting to grow up, at which point they will acquire the same mindset as adults."
Fatfat revealed some of his projects to revitalize the participation of youths in society: a congress for Lebanese youths in November and dropping the legal voting age from 21 to 18 years. According to the minister, "there is a need to convince youths that they are truly trusted, because they are constantly under impression that no one has any confidence in them. They must also be given a role in drawing up all the policies of the country and this can be achieved first and foremost by bringing down the voting age from 21 to 18 years; and then there are also issues linked to political and economic culture. If there has been an improvement in political rights in Lebanon, one cannot say the same for civil rights, which are not much respected in all the countries of the third world. From this perspective, youths have an important role to play. But they must accede to power even through their ideas."
The Lebanese minister emphasized that in Lebanon there is an ever widening generation gap between today's youths and older Lebanese generations. He specified: "The chasm has been made deeper by a rigidity of ideas born during the war and by monotony arising out of the monolithism which has prevailed in politics in recent years. To move ahead society needs its youths."