This year, the theme of International Youth Day is Youth Building Peace. Our thought and value systems, which are built on the education we receive, form the basis of our involvement in society. As we consider the role young people can play in bringing about peace, let us take time to reflect on the teachings which prompt our youth to build a peaceful society.
There is ancient French proverb which summarizes very clearly the importance of transferring knowledge to young people: « If young people only knew, if old people could still do. » Youth has the strength which is lacking in the aged; this strength is however accompanied by a lack of knowledge. Youth and education therefore often go together. When you think of it, you see that in any society, the main task of a young person is to receive education: from birth to adulthood, a person learns continually – in school, in university, in art class, in sports, in religion class, and of course at home. This is because, by teaching the youth to build the foundations of moral principles, of social and family traditions, and of literary, artistic, technical and scientific knowledge, we are preparing tomorrow’s society. Young people are a springboard towards the development of a people, the next generation; hence, the importance of their education.
Baron Montesquieu used to say that we receive three different kinds of education: one from our forefathers, one from our teachers, and one from the world; what we are told in the last category often contradicts the first two. It is true that as we grow up, we discover realities from our friends or strangers, which differ greatly from our other reference points, and which we do not always understand. God, however, understands everything. He understands us, He knows everything, and sees everything. He knows that the knowledge we acquire is important and affects our lives.
Formal schooling and higher education widen one’s horizons, not only regarding work, but also in terms of training the mind to analyze things and situations intelligently and sensibly. Daniel and his three friends were young men to whom God had given much knowledge in order to facilitate their advancement in and their impact on the Babylonian kingdom. The Bible tells us that, “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” (Daniel 1.17)
God knows that our formal schooling is important and allows us to do good things for our society. The commitment He expects from a young Christian, the responsibility of a young Christian, is to be diligent with his or her studies.
God also knows how important civic and family educations are. It is from our parents and from the adults around us that we receive education about the rules of living in society; in a church environment, we also receive instruction about the principles of living with others once we know Christ. In His Word, God recommends that adults be very careful with what they teach young people. He encourages them to teach children to follow the right path – a path based on values which are righteous and pleasing to God – and to instill in them the divine commandments. His promise is that children will then remember these teachings and will not turn away from them, later on.
Indeed, our world which is made up of different people, with different cultures and values, conflicting examples or influences, can bring doubt and confusion, and lead us to question or abandon what we have learned.
God gives us discernment, and He Himself is always with us through the Holy Spirit. During moments of confusion or hesitation regarding decisions, young people can lean upon God and on His Word so as not to face passively the influences which would turn them from doing good. They can evaluate everything using their common sense, their knowledge and advice from God, in order to choose what is righteous, while respecting others and seeking peace with everyone.
Passion, strength and vitality in action are among the most beautiful qualities of youth. Despite their lack of experience, young people can be role models in what they do and the character they display. God knows that, and He reminds us in his Word, not to let anyone look down on people who wish to act in a way that pleases Him, because of their youth (1 Timothy 4.12). Whatever a young Christian does, what counts is to maintain a heart that wishes to please God, and to remember the teachings which He has allowed us to acquire.
How can young people help promote peace?
During our youth, we can enjoy our time with our friends, having fun and good experiences, but in everything, let us remember God and His teachings. This is what God simply wants from young people. He is the God of peace; by obeying his request, we build peace.
Young people who learn from God possess the knowledge which provides and allows to share true peace, a peace that comes from God. It completes the knowledge which brings wisdom and peace on Earth, the one coming from our forefathers, from our teachers, and from society.
Let us thank God for taking care of young people and for the teachings they receive, for the good and the peace of all.