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Educating young people 
in justice and peace

Pope Benedict XVI has devoted his message for the 45th World Peace Day on the first day of 2012 to educating young people on the fundamental spirituality of justice and peace.

The pope stresses the importance of paying attention to the younger generations in struggling for the common good, as well as affirming the need for a just and peaceful order, where fundamental human rights can be fully expressed and exercised.

In its communiqué, the Vatican says that the Church “welcomes young people and sees them as the sign of an ever promising springtime, and holds out Jesus to them as the model of love who ‘makes all things new’” (Ap. 21, 5).

It calls the message the prophetic dimension of the pedagogy of peace, a concept that was first introduced by John Paul II. It notes that young people must work for justice and peace in a complex and globalised world, and this necessitates the establishment of a new pedagogical alliance.

The papal message invites us to reflect on how to inspire young people to get involved in the challenges that achieving justice and peace in our world call for. It also extends its invitation to young people to engage themselves in this area of life.

The Hong Kong diocese established the Justice and Peace Commission in 1977 and the Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs in 1991.

Through formation at both parish and school levels, both commissions have been endeavouring to promote an awareness of the fundamental nature of social concern and the importance of justice and peace in the world.

However, what effect has this had? A number of years ago, the diocese recommended that each parish set up a Social Concern Group. However, it has not happened across the board. While some parishes have complied, their area of operation has mostly been confined to the provision of social services, rather than justice and peace.

The Diocesan Youth Commission has not taken up the theme of social concern in its formation work. It seems the only organisation that focusses on both youth and the ministry of justice and peace is the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students.

This 50-year-old organisation, begun by post-secondary students, engages itself in the ministry of justice and peace at a basic level.

Unfortunately, its members are less pro-active than in a bygone era and their awareness of social concern is still underdeveloped. This year, the 50th Executive Committee failed to get enough people to fill all its vacant seats.

So how the diocese can really educate young people in justice and peace is a tricky question. Nevertheless, concentrating on the work of the above groups and working to develop them further is a way forward.

Investment in resources and training people as educators in this vital area would also seem to be called for by the pope in his message for World Day of Peace. With properly qualified people we can at least sow seeds in the minds of young people at a basic level.

While acknowledging that the diocese may already be overburdened by many types of ministries, we should remember that it is the Spirit of God which grants us wisdom and true development lies in the realm of obedience to the call of that same Spirit. SE