"Use Our Talents and Energy," African Youth Challenge Lutherans

Apr 05, 2003 12:35 PM EST

NAIROBI, Keny - "The youth have so much to offer to the Lutheran church, our zeal for God, energy and talent should not be ignored or restricted," was the message from African youth to their church representatives attending the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Africa Pre-Assembly Consultation (PAC) in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

In their message to the March 23-26 African PAC, a meeting to prepare church representatives for the July 2003 LWF Tenth Assembly, the 25 youth representatives said there was lack of understanding among young people, their elders and church leaders. They cited "communication gaps" and the "reluctance to let go of 'old time' traditions and rituals that may no longer be relevant for young people," as issues that hinder them from effectively participating in the life of church and society. They noted that conservatism in worship and prayer limits youth creativity, and urged that sermons preached in their churches "be relevant to the daily lives of the youth."

The youth further stressed the need to be "mobilized and equipped to use our own talents and creativity to establish job opportunities," for themselves, so that they could stop depending on the government or their parents for support.

With regard to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, the youth delegates said the socio-economic disintegration in their societies - manifested in high rates of unemployment that promote prostitution and promiscuity - contributes to continually increasing rate of HIV infections, especially among the young people. Other practices that lead to the spread of the HIV virus include harmful traditions like female genital mutilation, habits such as body piercing, as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

The African youth decried the many forms of violence to which they are exposed, including rape and incest, terrorism, ethnic and religious intolerance and political instability, as well as gangsterism, which is widespread among young people.

Concerning the LWF Tenth Assembly theme "For the Healing of the World," the youth concluded in their statement: "Healing should be all inclusive. If the youth are not healed, the world is not healed."

The African PAC, held jointly with a meeting of all heads of the 29 LWF member churches on the continent, was the fourth of five such consultations focusing on the Tenth Assembly theme and content from the different regional perspectives. The last in the regional series will be the Latin American and Caribbean meeting, April 6-9 in San Salvador, El Salvador. The Asian churches met in Medan, Indonesia, March 2-6, while European church representatives met February 23-26 in Vienna, Austria. The first regional PAC took place January 23-26 in North America, in Denver, USA. An international gathering of women from all the regions was held 14-17 November 2002 in Montreux, Switzerland. A global youth conference will take place July 12-18 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

By Albert H. Lee
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