An open letter from the youth

December 14, 2018

LAST week I shared with you in this column excerpts from the CBCP Pastoral Letter vis-à-vis the official opening of the Year Of The Youth for 2019 as part of the continuing the 9-year preparation for the 500th year of evangelization of the Philippines come 2021. Intrinsic to our ongoing reflection on the young of our country, allow me to share with you some citations from a thought provoking open letter collectively written by the CBCP-ECY delegates on the mindset of our Filipino youth today:  

This is our sentiment -- we who gathered on the Feast of Mary’s Visitation and Encounter with Elizabeth, in St. Paul University of Quezon City, upon the invitation of the Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) …

OUR PERSONAL TRAITS: (The) Filipino youth of the 21st century are life-given and want to be life-giving. We are dynamic individuals, overflowing with blessings, willing and open to learn and to grow when provided with opportunities to do so.

We are all searching for our identity -- who we are. We search for our meaning and ultimately our purpose in life. We know that we are called for something more than ourselves. We are called to act, but we still need to be guided and formed. We lack critical thinking and decision-making skills that usually make us hesitant to commit. We do not see ourselves as “the future”, but as “the present” of the church, the world, and of society. Hence, we are gifts, life-given to the church and to the Philippines, and we want to be truly life-giving.

OUR FAMILY is where we first experience love, care and belongingness. It is also where we have our first role models who guide and shape us as we are prepared to be launched into the bigger environment. Our Filipino culture that influences our family plays a major role in shaping us as young people. Practices and cultural behaviors, such as “utang na loob” and “pagmamano”, are still very much present in us, as well as the values of respect, obedience, and being family-oriented.

However, there are many different family situations present for each of us. Nowadays, due to the need for financial stability, some parents have to leave their children to seek greener pastures. Through these various situations, we still see the family as a foundational aspect of our lives. In our dreams for a better life, our families will always be part of our hopes and aspirations.

OUR SOCIO CULTURAL CONCERNS: (1) Health: We acknowledge the need to be healthy. However, in many places, young people do not receive enough nutrition and the needed medical attention. Depression and suicide are prevalent issues being discussed by the young and about the young. Substance abuse, other forms of addiction, and HIV/AIDS also gravely affect our fellow youth. We feel that there is an urgent need to address these concerns as these may involve us and affect the people around us.

(2) Education: We value our education together with our teachers and formators, who teach us majority of what we know, as we spend most of our time in school. Unfortunately, not all Filipino youth are given the opportunity for formal education. Some even end up on the streets or find themselves before high-risk situations such as child labor.

(3) Environment: We dream of a safe and sustainable world to live in. We value Mother Earth and all of God’s creation. We understand the importance of caring for our common home, but still need to realize that our seemingly small actions can either have a greatly positive or negative impact.

(4) Economic Challenges: Our national economy is said to be growing at its potential[vi]. However, majority of the Filipino youth do not feel this growth nor understand what it means and yet are very much affected by it. Many of us still experience difficulty in finding stable jobs to keep our future secure; others even fall victim to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Most want to make a living not just for ourselves, but more for our parents who have given much for us. We dream of a more inclusive economy that provides equal opportunities to people regardless of age and gender.

(5) Politics: Filipino youth comprise majority of the voters in the country. We seek honest and authentic leaders who stand for truth, justice and integrity. We need credible leaders we can count on and trust to lead and make moral decisions for the good of our country and its people. In the same way, we feel that we too can be leaders ourselves in various ways. Although there are opportunities to be the leaders we seek, we feel that these are limited, and at times even superficial. And,

(6) Dialogue with Cultures: We are heavily exposed to many kinds of differences: in cultures (e.g. indigenous peoples), faiths (e.g. other faith denominations), and ideologies (e.g. those rooted in same sex attraction). In all these, we heed Pope Francis’ invitation to build a “culture of encounter”. We seek to further understand them, and a concrete step is for us to have opportunities for dialogue to face these differences and move towards a more inclusive world.

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