International Youth Day and unleashing unlimited potential

By Bradon French

Did you know June 13 was International Sewing Machine Day? Or that the following day was International Thong Day (the flip-flop variety, of course)? In fact, that whole week was Love Your Burial Ground Week (June 8-16). I assure you I’m not making this up.

Of course, there were more significant days and weeks recently. NAIDOC Week was 7-14 July, July 26 was Crazy Hair Day in support of Cystic Fibrosis Victoria, and Jeans for Genes Day was 2 August.

So in a world where every day seems to acknowledge significant causes and events (my personal favourite is still National Donut Day on the first Friday in June), I wonder how we might consider International Youth Day on 12 August?

I’m sure it will trend on Twitter and there might even be a Facebook frame you can add to your profile picture, but I’d encourage you to consider the bigger picture.

International Youth Day was instigated by the UN General Assembly in 1999 and serves as an annual celebration of the role young women and men play as essential partners in change. It is an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.

The world currently holds the largest generation of youth in history. Young people represent hope for the future, hope for all of us – however they are more than just that.

In a message about International Youth Day, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova said young people were “not only our future, they are our present … they are the most connected, the most outspoken and the most open-minded generation the world has ever seen”.

Today’s youth have the potential to shape the world’s present and future but, sadly, this potential is often inhibited. The tragedy is that many young people around the world battle the suffocating grip of poverty, disease, lack of resources, education, and more.

The progress, dreams, and world-changing abilities are restricted for many young people.

International Youth Day is our opportunity to recognise the experience of young people around the world, and to be aware of those in our communities and families. To do one without the other seems naïve.

Following from last year’s focus on “Safe Spaces”, this year’s theme is “Transforming Education”.

We know that inclusive and accessible education is crucial to achieving sustainable development and can play a significant role in social issues, including the prevention of conflict.

Indeed, education is understood to be a “development multiplier” because it plays a pivotal role in accelerating progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (check out sustainabledevelopment.un.org), be it poverty eradication, good health, gender equality, reduced inequalities, action on climate or peaceful societies.

Education should lead to relevant and effective learning outcomes, with the content of school curricula being fit for purpose, including the opportunities – and challenges – that rapidly changing social contexts bring.

I hope that we might honour International Youth Day by acknowledging the place and potential of young people around the world and around the corner.

I hope that as a church, individually and corporately, we might amplify the voices and elevate the platforms for young people.

And if you’re not sure where to begin, buy a donut. I reckon most young people like donuts.          

Bradon French is the Synod’s Intergenerational Youth Ministry Coordinator

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