The Youth of Today
Who is the youth of today? In which context do today’s young people live? What are the crucial issues in working with the youth? And how does it affect our approach in formation? These were some of today’s basic questions. We explored them not only in reflection, but especially in face-to-face encounters with young people from Indonesia. The whole day was organised by Fr. Yulius Yasinto SVD, director of the SVD Catholic University in Kupang.
In the morning Fr. Yasinto came to our venue, accompanied by Mr. Leo Nahak, an anthropologist, and the two students – Sonia and Elia. Each of them shared from their own perspective, at times in a humorous, at times in a challenging way, thereby blessing us with many new insights. Fr. Yasinto gave a general description of the Indonesian youth, which could be applied as well, in many aspects, to the youth of other countries. He spoke particularly about the impact – both positive and negative – of globalisation, social media, and family life on young people today. Social media is an issue that has already been popping up several times these days. However, it has never been put as direct as by Fr. Yasinto, when he said: “Social media is not an artificial, but another real world, with its own way of communication, language, ‘ethics’, even culture.” Sonia also affirmed this point of view: “My cell phone is my best friend, it is always with me.”
In a very open and direct way Sonia and her friend Elia shared with us about the challenges they encounter, the consequences these have, and the expectations they hold towards adults. What was very tangible in their sharing was a deep desire to be accepted, respected, and supported. Due to pressure, demands, and high-expectations from both family and society they find it hard to discover their own identity and talents. Also, the use of social media can be a source of pressure to them, as they risk to forget about their role as a student for example.
It was particularly insightful to hear about how the two young Indonesian women experience us – religious. They feel that there is a big gap between us and them, due to a lack of openness to the world from our side. It is difficult for them to approach the religious, because they fear being judged and misunderstood. There were two central expectations on the religious derived from these experiences. The first was in the form of a question: “Why don’t you establish media and other tools to develop our talents and our spiritual life?” The second was a clear call: “We want you to be role models!”
In continental groups, we shared about our experiences with the youth back home in our own countries and the responses from some countries could be duplicated in other countries. As we shared in plenum, we noticed many similarities across the continents, though some developments appear to be rather specific for one part of the world. For example: As sisters from Taiwan, Korea, and Japan shared, lately, there has been a re-discovery of simple mobile phones, home-made food, and self-made articles. Fr. Yasinto encouraged us to review our initiatives for youth, do more in social media, make our houses a home, and prepare sisters, who are firm in their identity as SSpS and mature as a person, so that they can be a model for the younger generation.
In the afternoon, we had the possibility to meet more than 200 young Indonesians, as we were invited by Fr. Yasinto to visit the Catholic University of Kupang. The students had prepared for us a colourful cultural program with singing and dancing. Likewise, four of our sisters from different continents (Sr. Graciana: Africa, Sr. Juliana: America, Sr. Ewa: Europe, and Sr. Sunita: Asia) had prepared a PowerPoint presentation and videos on the youth in their respective continents. They shared in a very appreciative and encouraging way, yet, without leaving out the challenges and concerns that are part of the reality as well.
After our presentation, we celebrated Mass and shared a dinner. Afterwards, we continued our cultural program with songs and dances from both the youth and our sisters. Whether it was Polish Polonaise or Bollywood, the students were open to all of it. And, as we all mingled in dancing and picture-taking, it seemed as if both youth and sisters were equally happy to, literally, be in touch with one another.