Given the immensity and complexity of the crisis, the issue of youth unemployment should, at the very least, be on the prayer list of each South African church congregation. We bring unique gifts and graces to every challenge, and prayer is one of those unique graces we can and should bring to this crisis, acknowledging that it will require more than human ability to solve it.
If we begin to pray about it, we give it a certain prominence because we have spoken about it to God, and we will then have no choice but to act on it.
Prayer is also one of the factors that give the church confidence to deal with multiple and often converging crises. We gain our confidence from a relationship with someone who says “I will be with you always, until the end of time” and from Scriptures that proclaim that “for human beings it may be impossible, but for God it is possible”. When it becomes clear that other agencies are not going to – or simply cannot – deal with this and other crises any time soon, the Church has no choice but to stand in the breach as young people are part of the special concern of the church and also part of the marginalized and the voiceless or the unheard.
Reflecting upon what is happening between Israel and Palestine vs. what is happening in South Africa, Judge Dennis Davis is quoted to have said: “Over there they are talking about divorce – but here we are talking about marriage”.
Divorce and darkness vs marriage and light
I am not sure what the good judge would say about the coming together of West and East Germany in the early 1990s. Were they also talking about a marriage between the two geographical entities (which after all consists of one “volk” and therefore have much in common) or do they prefer the more neutral word of “uniting”? Or are they merely building a partnership or perhaps only trying to make a co-operation agreement work there? Or do they merely strive for “cohesion”?
Words create worlds, and it is important that we are clear which words we use when and why we use it.
This expression, according to Dr Nick Binedell, the founder of GIBS in Johannesburg, is a mantra that will lead any individual, organization, institution or country to a better future.
It resonates well with the Biblical expression: “Where there is no vision, the people perish (or parish!)”. (Proverbs 29:18)
But how does it resonate with the expression from Archbishop Tutu: “We learn from history that we do not learn from history”? We should desire to learn from history so that we do not repeat the mistakes of our individual and collective histories.
It is clear that history cannot simply be forgotten. Amnesia is not an option. But in faithfully learning about history from many different perspectives, how does one ensure that it does not consume you, imprison you or make you bitter and cynical? Can a knowledge of history liberate us?
On Thursday 18 February, a few days after Valentine’s day, a group of young people, under the direction of Rev Seth Naicker of the Volmoed Youth leadership training programme (VYLTP), will start an online journey reflecting on what it means to be and become “Beloved Community”.
A story is told about a young boy who wanted to test a sage. He held a small little bird in his two cusped hands and said to the sage: “Is this little bird dead or alive?” In his mind he thought: If the sage says “dead” then he will simply open his hand and allow the bird to fly away. If the sage says “alive”, he will crush the little bird. The sage listened to his question and contemplated for a while. Then she answered: “Son, whether the bird is alive or dead, is in your hands”.