On 12 August, International Youth Day, World Council of Churches deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri greeted young people gathered in Geneva, Switzerland.
International Youth Day, Phiri reflected, takes place in a time of increased international tensions, looming climatic deadlines, increasing disparities of income and wealth, and great rents in the social fabric of our societies.
“Further, none of these issues bypasses the more than 1 billion people in the world who are youth, that is, those between 15 and 24 years old,” she said. "In fact, the world’s greatest challenges—whether of health and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS, access to education, jobs, racial and ethnic conflict, migration and trafficking and slavery—all these great world issues are most keenly youth issues.”
Phiri asked: “Is this the world we bequeath to you? What are you to do in these circumstances, and what can you hope for?"
Young people can reframe and rethink, re-envisions and redeem desperate situations, Phiri said.
“I cite the remarkable characteristics of your generation, born around the turn of the millennium,” she said, a generation that seems to prize “cooperation over competition, inclusion over exclusion, community engagement over individual passivity, and making a contribution over the narrow ambitions of making a career.”
The power of today’s youth holds enormous potential for good, Phiri reflected, and so does the transformative power of love.
“I see it in our own fellowship: It fuels the ongoing renewal of Christian churches that is the ecumenical movement,” she said. “But we witness it most profoundly in the person and message and love of Jesus.”
Love is the root and catalyst of social change, Phiri concluded. “I believe that your generation has the courage and heart to embrace and engage that ultimate test, the test of love,” she said.