09/25/2017, 19.56
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Young people seek the meaning of life, the Church has to guide them, says activist sister

by Rasika Pieris*

Sister Rasika Pieris expresses her thoughts about the Preparatory Paper of the Synod of Bishops on Youth, set for October 2018. The Church is “Euro-centric in its thinking,” she writes. The challenges faced by young people in Asia are different from those in Europe.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sr Rasika Pieris is a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family, Colombo Province, and a youth activist.

Speaking about the forthcoming 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on ‘Youth, faith, and vocational discernment’ in October 2018, she writes that "there is a void that the Church feels”. In view of this, the Church “has the obligation to lead the youth choosing the path based on the scripture”.

With respect to its Preparatory Paper, Sr Rasika says that the text addresses the challenges posed by modernity and postmodernity. Young people have a growing need to understand the meaning of life. The Church's task is to guide them by “re-reading of scripture texts". Her thoughts follow.

Post-modernity has its impact on youth due to which there is a void that the Church feels. Youth, a group that still feels left out from the institutional Church due to its own approach and the preparatory document on ‘Youth, faith and vocational discernment’ articulates the need for the Church to get them involved and design the mission.

The youth who are influenced by market-driven-neo-liberal educational values where, the experts portray hegemony of scientific-technical reason as the solution, is the status quo. The new orthodoxy in education remains a challenge to long held values of education rather public education. The search for meaning in life among the youth is an increasing phenomenon where the Church feels that it has the obligation to lead the youth choosing the path based on the scripture. Re-reading of scripture texts in the light of new challenges posed is the need of the hour.

The document spells out various challenges that the modernity and post-modernity have constructed from different blocs as the challenges too differ geographically. The Church being Euro-centric in its thinking has been a long-held accusation and is again projected in the document as one read in between the lines. Perhaps the Church under the current pontiff need to reflect the world as it is where the challenges faced by the youth in Europe and America may not be same that are faced by the youth in Asia or Africa or Latin America.

It is true that neo-liberalism has its tentacles throughout the globe thus promoting globalised citizenship where heterogeneity is not appreciated. The youth now is being sandwiched between the culture of being homogenous and local surroundings and their unique cultural settings that they live in, poses a dilemma in terms of their identity and socialisation.

Exclusivism and extremism that emerges as it did recently in Charlottesville, America reflected elsewhere in different pockets throughout the world is of a grave concern. The document that speaks of only three types of vocations, the marriage, ordained ministry, and consecrated life may exclude the others who do not fall under the these quarters and re-visiting these in the light reading the signs in order not to exclude a group is inevitable as the document talks about mission.

‘Take a risk. Whoever does not risk does not walk’ is normative in neo-liberalism and the youth is ready to risk in the areas where they look for meaning. The vulnerability is an opportunity to explore new avenues as the document presents uncertainties and vulnerabilities as opportunities for mission. 

Leading the youth in the foot-steps of disciples need re-reading the scripture anew considering the signs of the time. Discernment in terms of making choices in life in the light of the gospel is essential but the mission is not to baptize the youth rather to find a mission to work with the youth who feels out of the flock by being open to learn from them instead of instructing them, listening to them thus trying to listen to the Jesus who is young now in order to understand the mission.

Glorifying suffering may not hold water now and most of the feminist theologians do not buy the arguments as they feel it is oppressive based on gender. Glorification of suffering is a tool that was used in the oppressors to justify suppression. Linking mission to that of suffering may not attract the youth as they fight for equality.

Interpreting mission using the old tools available will be using the old medicine to treat new illness. 

* a member of the Holy Family Sister of the Colombo Province and a young human rights activist

(Melani Manel Perera contributed to this article)



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