Young People, Faith and Social Justice

Concern with issues of social justice may seem at odds with the individualism and consumerism of the world of young people. Yet, increasing numbers of young people are becoming involved in the community through volunteering and many are involved in social justice activities. To what extent does faith provide a basis for involvement in social justice among young people? What role does faith play in young people’s motivations? These issues were addressed by Dr. Joan Daw in a project with MCD University of Divinity in 2009, published in Young People, Faith and Social Justice, by the Yarra Institute Press in 2013.

As a small-scale, qualitative research project, Daw conducted interviews with ten coordinators of youth social justice programs from Catholic secondary schools and four people from Catholicbased social justice organisations. These people
were all related to five Catholic schools in Melbourne. Unfortunately, no young participants in these programs were interviewed or surveyed as part of this project.

Several of the interviewees reported that there were ‘moments of deep spirituality’ among young people in formal religious situations identified, for example, in terms of reflection during the veneration of the Cross, or singing after experiencing Mass in the cathedral.

Several interviewees noted that their students did not have a good grasp of the whole story of the Christian faith or with the whole story of Catholicism.

While many young people were critical of the structures of the Church, it did seem that, from time to time, social justice was affirmed by young people as a practical expression of the faith. However, it was noted that many young people did not connect social justice and faith. They are involved because of their innate sense of justice, because wrongs need to be put right, rather than because it is an expression of Gospel values (p.125). Another person put it in terms of people wanting to be part of the human family and wanting to support those who were disadvantaged, but they did not make the link between that and the institutional Church.

Daw concludes that ‘the optimum situation of connectedness [between faith and social justice] appeared to occur when there was a network of interconnections between parish, family, secondary school and social justice organisation’. But she goes on to say ‘this dense network appeared to be rare’ (p.139)

For more information see: Pointers, Volume 24, No. 1, Pages 15-16

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