By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
Children and the Youth were at the centre of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s plenary meeting discussions for 2018. The plenary that took place from 10 -11 April looked at ways of promoting interests of children and the youth in the Church especially this year when the universal church celebrates the Year of the Youth. Children rights are often manipulated in society and the Catholic church seeks to create a wider platform for the young ones to express their faith and views within the Church and the family. There were calls to include children and the youth in decision making at all levels, identifying their needs, interests and talents and to nurture them to become good Christians and positive citizens. Speakers at the Plenary called on the church to remove young people from the dark side and bring them into the lime light by respecting their views, concerns, aspirations, hopes and ideas and giving them space to participate in the development of the church and society.
Sr. Diana Kanyere LCBL said the character of the church and family is reflected in how the institutions deal with children and the youth. She said the family and the Church have to take cognizance that children have a divine purpose that God put in them.
“Children are a gift from God and they can restore broken hearts. They make the Church more focused and instills a sense of responsibility in their families while teaching society to be more selfless,” said Sr. Kanyere.
She added: “Children and youth easily adapt to change and embrace it, they are creative and innovative thereby giving life to the church. Their minds bring positive changes to the community and the church.”
She said young people need hope that comes from knowing a sense of purpose and direction and the church was responsible for providing this.
“Young people who don’t know their sense of purpose try to do too much and that causes fatigue and conflict. Without a clear purpose young people keep on changing directions, religions, faiths and goals. Knowing their purpose prepares them for eternity that is the divine purpose,” Sr. Kanyere said.
She urged the church to look at the challenges affecting children especially those orphaned, the disadvantaged and abused children so that they experience the love of God. She stated that most youths in Africa live in the dark side of life and they need the Church to hear, accommodate and engage them as partners and not as problems to be solved.
Fr. Kennedy Muguti, speaking on opportunities and challenges for the youth in Zimbabwe, took a swipe at the government for failing to provide necessary conditions that promote the well being of young people. He chronicled the plight of the young people in areas of education, economics, politics and social life and stressed Sr. Kanyere’s idea that the youth did not have enough recognition in society.
“Young people constitute a large and rapidly growing proportion of the population in Zimbabwe. Hence, their current plight and their future cannot be treated as a by-the-side issue. Faced by economic uncertainty and lack of job opportunities, young people see themselves as a potentially lost generation. Potential talent, skill and glamour is lost in this economic confusion,” He said.
Fr. Muguti said young people are hard hit as the most vulnerable group of society. He claimed that unemployment has become a threat to national security and stability as the young people were resorting to criminal activities for survival as idleness breeds criminals.
“When young people have nothing to do, they turn to drugs and become criminals. Most of them no longer value going to school out of frustration because there are no jobs. Some young people are in the streets because they cannot find proper parental care and lack guidance from the church,” Fr. Muguti stated.
He also challenged the Church and families not to treat young people as a problem to be helped or solved but as conduits of creativity and catalysts of change.
He said: “They should be trained to be responsible and consequently be incorporated in the decision making process. Allow them to be heard, to make meaningful contributions to the economy and in society.”
He said when young people are well groomed, trained and formed, they can contribute towards the transformation of the country.
The youth Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Harare, Fr. Claud Maganga urged the Church to examine the way it thinks and deals with the youth. Speaking on the opportunities and challenges of young people in the Catholic Church, Fr. Maganga highlighted that the youth clamor for visibility in the Church. He said when young people feel sidelined by the family or the Church, they will react by engaging in unorthodox practices. He encouraged the Church to provide solutions to problems and poverty facing young people so that they are not taken advantage of by politicians, or economic moguls.
“Young people are experiencing a lot of poverty forcing them to go for anything good or bad. They are suffering economically, politically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most of them need healing as they are bruised and bear wounds of societal neglect,” said Fr. Maganga.
He called on bishops and pastors to be close to the youth offering them spiritual guidance, direction and by creating opportunities of employment for young Catholics within Church structures.
The theme of this year’s plenary meeting was chosen in line with the universal theme to support young people as a blessing to the family, the Church and society. The Plenary meeting was held as the Universal Church prepares for the Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.