WCC– In light of International Youth Day on 12 August, the World Council of Churches (WCC), Lutheran World Federation and the World Student Christian Federation invited youth to celebrate the day at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. The event promoted a shared understanding of inclusion, acknowledging the gifts and addressing the common concerns and challenges of young people around the world.
“We have to transform this world together, no matter what age we are at”, said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, during his greeting to the youth participants at the opening morning prayer. “I strongly believe in the transformative power of youth today”.
WCC deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri actively participated in the event programme and addressed the role of youth in the living fellowship: “I firmly believe that our situation—the world’s situation, and yours—can be met by faith active in love (…) I believe that your generation has the courage and heart to embrace and engage that ultimate test, the test of love. We look to the youth movements all over the world to provide leadership in the ecumenical movement and the international bodies to contribute to solving current global problems. In so many ways, then, you are our hope”.
Rev. Dr Martin Junge, Lutheran World Federation general secretary, stated: “Young people today are amazingly adept, profoundly connected to each other and already effectively contributing towards the revival of our churches and communities. This generation has also challenged some of the traditional practices, values priorities and political views”.
Necta Montes, World Student Christian Federation general secretary, said that “as we gather today millions of youth and students are leading actions for change (…) let us listen to them!”
Azeez Sadeq from Lyon, France presenting on migration and the refugee crisis, shared his personal experiences of being an Iraqi refugee in central Europe, talking not only about language difficulties, but also about how he is perceived in his new environment. “The church must trust the youth of today because we have the energy and the church has the wisdom. I saw death before me, but today standing in front of life loving people, I forgive those who hurt me and believe that everything is possible.”
Video contributions by youths from Kenya, USA, Colombia and South Africa were also included in the programme, followed by roundtable discussions, on climate, gender justice, migration, radicalism and education.
“Youths should not be seen as victims or perpetrators but as partners for constructive change,” said participant Jennifer Mathok, reflecting on solutions for radical extremism and encouraging a rethinking of the way youths are anticipated.
A call to action was highlighted from all youth speakers, along the importance of relationship building, dialogue and support networks.
International Youth Day, first declared by the United Nations in the year 2000, was observed this year under the theme “Transforming Education.”