by Hannah Angus, SCM Australia
What can bring together the youth? This is a question that has plagued me throughout the recent World Council of Churches AGAPE consultation in Chiang Mai. It is rare indeed, as a young Australian woman, to sit with such a diverse group as we were—ecumenists, students, church youth workers from the Eastern oceans of Tonga and Fiji to the Asian West of Pakistan and India, from as far North as Korea to the Southern continent of Australia.
The youth hearing that took place as part of the AGAPE consultation consisted for the main part of story-telling, discussions and game-playing. The stories we heard were painful: of the struggle for real and reliable work, the inability to find sufficient food, the oppressive combined forces of government and militarisation. In contrast to these over-arching forces, our meeting was part of the underground revolution—the re-appropriation of globalisation that the AGAPE process seeks.
Instead of meeting as representatives of the Global South or Global North, as oppressors and oppressed... we met as young people; young people finding similarity in our own struggles to find a place in the world: to learn and to find meaningful work, to support our families and simply to find a life which is joyful and fun.
The strongest message that came through to me after listing to the youth share their stories, watching them interact and play, was one common joy. This is our motivation to act, the genesis of our struggles against the suffocating structures of our present world. And it was to these structures which we found ourselves up against in our discussions—starting to recognise the injustices and uncover the forces; yet feeling overwhelmed by their enormity.
How then do we respond? The presentation of our youth statement spoke of actions—starting with ourselves and our local communities. However I believe the real point was in the manner of our presentation; we need to be creative, engaging, fun and unusual. This can be the strength of the youth, their energy and preparedness to change, and their message to all people is the reminder that life is good! Take hold of those long and arduous meetings and create something different, enact the alternative structures that you dream of!
Personally, as a professional bureaucrat, there cannot be anything quite so challenging, as to bring joy and creativity into working spaces. The message of the youth impels me, the spirit of delight in life, and the desire for something different.