NEXT Sunday’s youth-focused Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Sunday statement challenges all Catholics to catch the passion of the young for justice.
Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission executive officer Peter Arndt said the document, which formed part of the bishops’ response to their witness of young people’s involvement in World Youth Day, “would also alert Catholics to injustices suffered by young people in society”.
The areas of injustices covered relate to youth employment, indigenous youth, mental health and the prevention of abuse, and two international concerns – the environment and justice in the wider world.
In another response to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference statement, preparations are underway for a youth festival in Brisbane archdiocese next month.
ACBC’s senior youth ministry projects officer Malcolm Hart said he was “eagerly awaiting” the official release of the statement at the Australian Catholic University’s Strathfield campus in Sydney on September 16.
ACBC’s Australian Social Justice Council chairman Bishop Christopher Saunders said in the preamble to “And You Will Be My Witnesses: Young people and justice” that “two threads run through this year’s statement”.
“The first is the legacy of World Youth Day 2008 and its theme, which tells of the power that the Holy Spirit confers on us and its continuing inspiration,” Bishop Saunders said.
“The second thread is the consciousness of how many young people experience deprivation and prejudice in Australia and overseas.”
The statement also directly addressed Aust-ralia’s young people.
“We want to say how inspired we are to see the Holy Spirit at work in your lives and in the life of the Church in Australia,” the statement said.
The statement went on to acknowledge the bishops’ responsibility to youth.
“We the Catholic bishops of Australia recognise our responsibility to stand with young people wherever they are affected by injustice.
“We take seriously our role as advocates, speaking out when they are unable to be heard or when society is unwilling to listen.”
The statement also spoke to a wider audience, noting that “the challenge presented to young people during World Youth Day is one that all members of the Church and broader society must consider”.
“That challenge – ‘What will you leave to the next generation? What difference will you make?’ – is directed not just to young people but to all people of faith and all Australians.”
Mr Arndt said he had been intent on communicating this challenge to all he spoke with in the parishes and deaneries of Brisbane archdiocese in the lead-up to the statement’s release.
“The bishops’ statement very much challenges all of us to be inspired by the passion of the young for justice,” he said.
“The bishops want all of us, no matter what age, to catch that passion which after all is a fundamental part of being a witness to the Gospel.”
Mr Arndt said the bishops’ concern about justice for the young was also a key part of the statement.
“The bishops have particularly addressed issues affecting indigenous youth, youth employment, mental health and the prevention of abuse,” he said.
“It’s very sobering to see statistics which suggest that one in five young people aged 13 to 17 years in Australia suffer from a mental illness of some type.
“In the age group 18 to 24 this increases to one in four young people.
“This is disturbing when we realise that mental illness is the strongest risk factor for youth suicide.”
All Catholics can contribute to reducing injustice to youth through social action and advocacy to address root causes, Mr Arndt said.
“This can be done by pressuring agencies responsible, usually the government, to change arrangements, systems and policies leading to these injustices.
“Catholics need to educate themselves more on these issues to be effective agents of change.”
Meanwhile, Brisbane archdiocesan Com-mission for Ministry with Young People member Anita Hendrie said preparations were well underway for next month’s youth festival, i-Witness: Young People and Justice.
“The October 11 festival, which is in response to this year’s Social Justice Sunday Statement, aims to be a creative, festive, informative, hope-filled event, bringing together social justice groups, young people and those who work with young people from across the archdiocese,” Ms Hendrie said.
The event, starting at midday at the Rosalie precinct (at the former Marist College Rosalie), in Brisbane’s Central Deanery, will feature music, drama, workshops and guest speakers.
For more information on i-Witness: Young People and Justice go to www.ycm.org.au or call (07) 3109 6800.
For more details on the Social Justice Statement go to the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council website at www.acsjc.org.au or phone (02) 8306 3499.