John Roughan: Easter Youth!
By John Roughan
19 April 2004
Holy Week, the 7 day period preceding Easter Sunday, is a sacred time. Christians worldwide grapple with the meaning not only of their faith but with the mystery of life itself. They do this principally through liturgical rites, Biblical readings and acting out Jesus Christ's last days on earth. Christians re-think long, deeply and in awe on life's most fundamental issues--life/death, suffering/resurrection, love/hate, trust/ disbelief, loyalty/betrayal, good/evil.
They prayerfully recall during Holy Week's intense 7-day period to that time two thousand years ago--from the Jewish people's Hosannas ringing in Christ's ears on that first Palm Sunday through his betrayal on Holy Thursday night to the torturous Good Friday death on the cross to his glorious rising from the dead on Easter Sunday morning. Holy Week is truly a sombre time, a period of deep thought and sincere prayer. It is least of all a time of entertainment, lightness and joy. The question then must rise "Why were youth, hundreds of them, so involved with such serious work?"
On Good Friday last week, for instance, Honiara's Holy Cross parishioners witnessed, for the third year running, young people re-enact Christ's trial, suffering and death on the cross. These same youth had sewn up and created their own costumes depicting Roman soldiers with swords, capes, shields, etc. Hundreds of youth, far out numbering the older congregation, attended in reverence this two hour ceremony.
Holy Saturday night, the vigil of Easter Sunday, saw youth once again dominate church presence. They acted out in front of almost a thousand people readings from the Old Testament--Genesis' Creation Story, Moses and his people crossing the Red Sea and Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son. Once again these public actions took weeks of preparation, attention to detail and willingness to bring time, energy and enthusiasm to assist other people review the basics of their faith. The question must be asked: "Why are our youth so involved in bringing alive the foundations of the Christian faith?"
Not only Catholics experienced this flowering of youth involvement. The Anglican Church as well had their young people heavily involved with church matters during Holy Week. This Easter season, the first free one since the Social Unrest disturbed the country in 1998, was like an unleashing of pent-up energies that had been smothered for five years.
Youth involvement, enthusiasm and concern is not only taking place in the churches and in church affairs. Many youth no longer hang around, waiting for older people to direct them. Look at the 40 to 50 murals painted on the cement pots lining Mendana Avenue. Youth experienced at first hand a period of Social Unrest which basically robbed them of their future. University education, in past years, was a sure ticket to a worthwhile future. No longer! Young people have seen their future disappearing like the early morning mists over a river. What was clear only a few years ago--higher education, decent job, marriage and then The Better Life--no longer is seems to work. Youth are clearly searching for, checking out new futures directed by themselves than what society had in mind for them.
Two weeks ago, at a SIDT training workshop, 33 young men and women armed themselves with course material that prepares them to work in conflict resolution with other youth. First of all the course makes it clear that the most important part of conflict resolution starts with knowing oneself. What kind of a person am I rather than mastering techniques and skills teaching others about conflict resolution. The emphasis is on the self, rather than the other. How to make sure who I am before questioning who is the other.
Present-day youth involvement challenges adult leaders. It also challenges the social order once so clear in the Solomons. Adult leaders badly used youth during the Social Unrest years. They became foot soldiers for both sides, publicly carried high powered weapons and were, in turn, promised bright futures. But nothing like that happened. Rather, youth across the nation suffered major losers. Their education chances were grossly interrupted, job prospects disappeared and adult leaders quickly showed themselves to have feet of clay.
Rather than bemoan their fate, blame everyone for their plight, many searched out a better future. Some as mentioned above, are becoming service oriented, others want to reach out to their friends. The adults challenge is to tap into this energy, to make it grow for the benefit of the nation and to produce a stronger, better future for all. Easter has always been a time for hope! With our own youth population already showing us the way what better than to copy them for a better future for all.