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YOUTHS FORMATION: THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS, CIVIL SOCIETY AND THE CHURCH
By Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Kure Emmanuel
 

Introduction

The youths of today have often been described as those who have lost their bearing, thus they lack discipline and are unruly. This assertion is succinctly buttressed in the words of John Mark Piki who said; “our society is religiously adulterated; morally polluted; socially bastardized; politically maimed; economically ruined; and indeed a sick society. Despite all these we must be ambassadors of Christ. The Christian message cannot be demythologized on the altar of compromise” (The Voice Magazine, No. 37, 1998-99, p.15). However, the result and the effect of such a perverted social structure are not far-fetched. For instance, we have thousands of unmarried mothers, illegal abortions, unwanted pregnancies, leather bag marriages (marriage by convenience), prostitution, armed robbery, drug addiction, the spread of HIV/AIDS and above all various forms of venereal diseases. All these are pointers to the fact that our society has really gone sick.

Furthermore, it has been observed that the majority of our youths are not only losing the sense of sin in their lives but above all, the sense of God. Nevertheless, one may go further to postulate that even if they believe in something; it is certainly not a personal God who is real and still a God we can approach.

Some have gone to the extent of believing that there is no sin in whatever they do. They will tell you that something has gone wrong rather than say, it is sinful. In short, the root cause of these obnoxious happenings is well known to us. For example, the incessant portrayal of wrong information by the mass media, the existence of pornographic literature and what more misleading information from peer groups are pointers to this fact, thus, such organs create an emotional drive without consideration for values other than pleasure.

It also goes without saying that most youths of today no longer have the sense of the sacred in their heads, and as such they no longer see the church as a sacred place but rather an avenue for socialization. For them, a church that is not “bubbling” is not a church of the twenty first century. They forget the fact that Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be forever. In addition, the youths of today are avaricious; because our society is such that it does not matter how people come by their wealth. It is a society that respects one for how smart one is in getting the share of the world's booty; this in fact gives credence to the false notion that the end justifies the means.

To arrest this anomaly, there is need for a concerted effort by parents, moral instructors and ministers of the word to keep hammering on the Gospel values to our youths so that the need to strive for holiness, repentance and the awareness of sin in their lives, will sink into their hearts. The place of the cross in Christian life should also be emphasized; for we cannot talk of Christianity without the cross. For Christianity without the cross is not really Christianity at all. This write up is meant to assist the youths to know their bearings, to assist parents in the upbringing of their youths, the church and the civil society.

 

2.0 Who Are the Youths?

The term “youth” is an exclusive concept which does not have an objective comprehensive definition. Thus different people and disciplines describe it in different ways. Some use age units to stipulate who the youths are. For some, youths are those from the ages of 18 to 21 till menopause or shortly after menopause age (i.e. between 30 and 40 years). Such people seem to base their mathematical calculation on chambers dictionary of the 20th century description of youth as “the state of being young, early life, the period immediately succeeding childhood: “an early period of existence, and a young person.” In other words, those to be identified as youths vary form one society or group to another. In this description biological and societal factors come into play. This as Bernard Ngwoke rightly stated “youth is an adolescent rapidly undergoing some physiological changes in his body and psyche, ushering into puberty.”

This bodily and mental development is remarkably a preparation for assuming a social role proper to adulthood namely marriage or some other vocations in life (priesthood or the religious life).

Thus in our own time, the notion of youth is even more extensive. For instance, Dr. NnamdiAzikiwe (late) at his 85th commemoration of his birthday announced that he was 85 years old a youth. Therefore, one ceases to be a youth when one could no longer engage in active life. Hence Rev. Dr. Dominic Adama (late) succinctly opined: “the age of the youth represent spontaneity and natural ardour, enthusiasm, industrious, creativity, vivacity, responsiveness and idealism.” Therefore it is imperative to state that youth are today's infants and tomorrow's adults because even those in their mid-fifties and are still very healthy call themselves youths. Youths are the future of the world, or the nation and of the church. Tomorrow actually depends on the youths just as today has the obligation to mould them.

 

3.0 The Prevailing Tendencies of Our Youths

We are quite aware of the popular saying that “today's youths are the leaders of tomorrow” this is true because it is from among the ranks of the youths that the future head of states, Governors, senators, members of house of representatives, our future engineers, doctors, lawyers, pilots, astronauts and artists will also come from today's youths. This image of the youth is one of hope, achievements, fulfillment and self-actualization. Speaking on the important position youths play in society, Professor Stephen Nkom (late) made it clear in the following words: “it is a vision anchored on the transformation of the talents and capabilities of the youths into practical accomplishment. Encouraged by this positive hope, every generation tends to see its youths as the builders of a greater tomorrow, the leaders of a brighter future, the moral crusaders of the future church and the proud and responsible parents of the generation to come.”

While this flattering and hope –inspiring image of the youths is very comforting, the other side of coin could also painfully come true. Thus contrary to our expectations, today's youths have very often than not dabbled themselves into crimes of all sort such as: armed robbery, kidnapping, women trafficking, bribery and corruption, unemployed vagabonds, social miscreants, secret cults, 419ners, sexual promiscuity and rapists, paid assassins, and political thugs; they could be the ones who will tear down the fabrics of the society, who will drive their parents to their untimely deaths. And who will fill the whole place with corruption, drunkenness, abortions, and indolence. In fact, while nobody desires this side of the coin, its possibilities is a danger that stares us in the face.

However, from all indications, such negative tendencies have given rise to a new form of atheism known as humanist ideology which is the exultation of man and the dethroning of God, whereby pleasure is proclaimed as the supreme good, the desire for power and domination, discrimination of all kinds such are the inhuman propensities of this humanism”. Thus, it is in the society of this secularist atheism that the youths are plunged.

In a context much more peculiar to us that is, the oil boom in the 1970s; ushered in the further crave for materialism in our Nigerian society and since then there has been advanced indiscipline and crimes of all sort as mentioned above.

Regrettably, youths are actively involved in all these tendencies. This obnoxious situation is echoed by Michael Achibong in these words, “the general peace and stability of this country has been further threatened by other societal problems like unemployment especially of young qualified people, mass retrenchment of workers owing to the miserable state of the economy, inflation, scarcity of essential commodities etc… they, thus pollute the atmosphere under which the modern youth lives and grows.” In the midst of all these, Pope Saint John Paul II was aware of the fact that the youths can easily be given into weakness following modes of behavior that can rightly be considered a scandal in the contemporary world. Notwithstanding, he announces to the youths in the following words: “you are the future hope of the church and the world, you are my hope.” Nevertheless he went further and exhorts them to be people who in the depths of their hearts still desire a beautiful and pure love. Apparently, for instance our experience of working among youths has revealed that there are two different kinds of influences in youths. Firstly, a deep desire to know the spiritual realities of life and the universe, and secondly, the opposite pressure to enjoy what good times are available now. In any case, the two influences need to be recognized and then the spiritual drive can be emphasized and magnified so that it becomes the prominent thrust in any youth ministry. In this direction, the words of our indefatigable Pope gives credence to the above assertion when he said, “there is a growing nostalgia for the sacred, for the genuine values for prayer among youths.”

Worse still is that our present educational system devoid of moral formation is the root cause of all these. For again as Pope John Paul II cautioned, “education without religion is incomplete and is in danger of distortion, in danger of turning into an instrument harmful to man.” It was in this direction that both the United Nations Organization and Pope John Paul II declared the year 1995 as international youth year, and since then, every succeeding Pope has kept such celebrations going. This had obvious significance. First of all, for the youths themselves, and also for the people of all ages, individuals, communities and the whole society.

Thus to further buttress the important position which youths occupy in any given society, the Nigeria National Youths Service Corps Policies of 1981 uphold that “every society or establishment look up to their youths…for quality leadership, knowledge, integrity and enthusiasm without which no nation can hope to prosper.”

Therefore, the place of the youth is of vital importance in the life of every society. Youth is the key stage in the life of every human being. In fact, youth is a special gift belonging not just to the group or generation but the entire humanity. It is to be treasured and nurtured by all and sundry.

 

4.0 Youths and Their God-Given Potentials

Demographically speaking, the youths form a very large chunk of the population of this country, a vital segment on whom lies the future growth of the population in all its ramifications. On the biological dimension youths are endowed with physical strength, agility, vibrancy and freshness, enthusiastic and industrious. According to Professor Stephen Nkom (late) they are the ones that have the energy to handle the most arduous, the most tasking and the most physically demanding jobs and activities in the society. You cannot build bridges without the youths, you cannot fight wars without the youths, and you cannot run the economy in all its entire ramifications without the youths. It is the energy, vitality, productivity of the youths that move and sustain the economy.”

On the psychological dimension, the youths being at the prime of life are adventurous, courageous, daring, innovative, willing to experiment, receptive to all new ideas, forward–looking and radical. They are eager for change, ready to embrace new fashion and new ways of doing things. However, lacking in experience they tend to be rash, impulsive, impatient and sometimes rebellious. Unlike the more elderly generation who are a lot more cautious and preoccupied with order, protocol and stability, the youth tend to be more optimistic, more romantic, more idealistic in their view of situations and unduly over-zealous to march forward even before the correct contours of the job at hand are fully understood. In this direction professor Stephen Nkom (late) again pointed out that “it is at this stage of life that people tend to dream big dreams, to embrace all kinds of fantancies and to get up tall ambition for their future. Very often and without proper guidance, frustration easily sets in when these grand agendas begin to clash with the hard realities of the world.”

On the political dimension, the youths are under the authority of the older generation. They are expected to be obedient and submissive to authority, often without a say. At the same time the execution of the orders and decision of the authorities, the prosecution of the war that are declared, and the ugly consequences of the mistakes of the older decision makers often fall squarely on the shoulders of the youth. However, in a world that is increasingly complex, and in consonance with the growing democratic spirit our country is now in, it has become necessary that the youth can no longer be excluded from decision-making process. Therefore, the attitude of public authorities towards the youth must begin to change for the better, in order to accommodate the increasingly obvious reality of the place of youth in the society. Nevertheless, the question is, how prepared are Nigeria's youth to translate their full potentialities into reality or concrete achievement? What has our society put in place to enable them deliver the goods as leaders of tomorrow?

 

 


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