by Peter Majura, Program Associate
On this year’s World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI gave a reflective and challenging speech, “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace.” The message was an invitation to young people to recognize their formation and participation in society at large. “Young people with their enthusiasm and idealism can offer new hope to the world,” said the Pope.
His message offers an opportunity for young people to recognize their call to promote justice, peace, and the common good—values that are deep-rooted in Catholic social teaching.
Pope Benedict sees education as a tool that leads to the growth of young people. True education in peace and justice is initially rooted in the family. Parents are the first teachers in the ways of faith, compassion and justice. It is in the family that children learn what it means to be Christ-like and to embrace Christian values that are fundamental for building a peaceful and just society. Lamentably, today many families seem to be threatened and detached. He urges parents not to grow weary but to continue to encourage their children to have hope in Jesus, the true model of justice and peace.
Peace is not just the absence of war. For peace to exist there must be a safeguarding of the basic human rights of persons, including freedom of expression. Dignity must be protected through brotherly and sisterly love. Each one of us is called to be part and parcel of the peace process by working together, ensuring solidarity, and helping each other to solve conflicts in our families, our neighborhoods, our schools and universities, and the world. Young people have a right to be educated in peace. Christ is our true peace; thus, we strive to be Gospel-people as we work to promote peace with justice.
Pope Benedict emphasizes the importance of educating young people because it is one way of preparing them to see the reality of life. Education, in this case, helps them to acquire new knowledge and expand their understanding of the world they live in. He addressed all educators–leaders in different aspects of social, political, economic, religious, and cultural life, reminding them that they have a responsibility to provide education and formation to young people. Young people must then accept the responsibility for respecting human dignity and freedom that comes with education.
The Pope also stressed the danger of relativism as an obstacle to the formation of many young people in their community. Relating everything to oneself and one’s feelings can lead to a false sense of freedom. True freedom comes when we discover, within our youthful desires, a true passion for discerning good from evil and seeking justice.
Pope Benedict’s 45th World Day of Peace entire speech can be retrieved here: http://www.radiovaticana.org/en3/articolo.asp?c=551018
- Why it is important to educate and empower young people in matters of peace and justice?
- Do you agree with the Pope that young people are the key to repairing our broken and wounded world? What role do you play in mending the violence and injustice in your neighborhood, your church community, and in the world?
- If you are a member of a youth group at your parish, approach your youth minister or your parish priest. Work together with him/her to have a presentation and discussion on how Pope Benedict XVI’s speech has an impact on the lives of the youth in your parish and elsewhere.
- Draft and circulate a petition to youth in your parish, requesting protection for education and social services funding for youth. Invite a group of signers to deliver the petition to the local office of a member of Congress.
- Write letters to the Department of Education and to your local representatives asking them to ensure that all young people in your society have access to quality education, stable employment opportunities, and better living conditions.
- Join and help local “Occupiers” by providing them with supplies such as warm clothes and hand warmers to help them promote peace and justice in this cold weather. Provide them with goods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Post on Facebook or Tweet the following articles about the Occupy Wall Street movement to show your support for ending all injustice: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/occupy-wall-street/, http://occupywallst.org/, http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/02-3, http://www.commondreams.org/occupy.