GOD'S WORD FOR ALL YOUNG PEOPLE
Pope Benedict XVI says that “Young people should be loved, esteemed and respected. Whatever their possible ambiguities, they have a profound longing for those genuine values which find their fullness in Christ.” In rural areas, the youth are always there, waiting for someone who can give them hope and help them to get rid of their multiple problems among others: lack of education, unemployment, teenage pregnancy, drugs, the weight of the culture etc. They need to be helped spiritually as well as materially. They need somebody who can look at them like Jesus in the Gospel according to Mark: “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (Mk 6:34).
- God’s Word: Spiritual nourishment
We deeply feel that the youth need the Word of God which should be their spiritual nourishment and their light: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path” (Ps 119: 105). In fact, when we invite them to church, they massively come. This shows that they need to know, to listen to and pray to Jesus Christ, the word of God, who should be the source of hope for them (cf. 1 Tm 1: 1). For, “According to Saint Jerome, ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. Reading and meditating on the word of God not only gives us the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus (Phil 3:8), but roots us deeply in Christ.” For that, we help them to be acquainted with God’s Word. We do it through weekly lectio divina. For example, we read the gospel in English for the students and in Limba or in Krio for those who do not go to school (uneducated). In simple ways, they share what touches them in the gospel and try to let the word of God nourish them and shape their lives.
Moreover, Pope Benedict XVI clearly affirms: “Each member of Christ’s faithful should grow accustomed to reading the Bible daily! (…). Care should be taken to initiate the faithful into the ancient and fruitful tradition of lection divina. The word of God can lead to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and bring about conversions which produce reconciliation, since it is able to sift ‘the thoughts and intentions of heart’ Heb 4:12)” This is what we are trying to implement at Saints Peter and Paul Parish – Fadugu even though the African Traditional Religion is still very strong and has a great influence on the youth.
- The Phenomenon of Traditional Initiation
In preaching the Good News to the youth in rural milieu, we must not forget their traditional initiation background. This is what shaped their lives before they meet Jesus Christ. During their traditional initiation called Burebaŋ in Limba, they learn the following values: kindness, respect of the elders, solidarity etc. These values help them to create a good atmosphere among themselves and with others. Also, they (these values) can be considered as “a providential preparation for the transmission of the Gospel.”
Christian life seems to be secondary for them. Nevertheless, knowing that “It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows but by attraction”, we try to attract them to Christ by sharing their daily joys and sorrows. Also, their tradition should not be neglected or despised. That is why we try to learn their culture as much as we can. We learn also their language (Limba). Culture and language always go together. In this sense, “Learning a language without the cultural framework in which it exists is like cooking ethnic food without the spices of the region.” Also, we learn their language in order to be closer to those who are uneducated.
- God’s Word for all young people: Learned and Ignorant Alike
“Go to the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16: 15). Knowing that the Gospel must be preached to everybody, we do not despise the youth who did not have any chance to go to school. We take care of them and help them to understand that God’s Word is not only for those who are educated. In fact, “A missionary is under an obligation to all those he deals with, the learned and the ignorant alike.”
However, we encourage them to go to school. Our schools in the villages are a great help for them; they are still relevant as means for evangelization. Unfortunately, most of the youth in the villages do not know yet the value of being educated. Their schools are still traditional initiation. For some, going to school is a waste of time and money. One of our tasks as missionaries is to show them the necessity of being educated in this contemporary world.
Precious, the youth should be always guided to know Jesus Christ who can be their best friend and the source of their hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rm 5:5a). Again, Pope Benedict XVI says: “The one who has hope lives differently.” Hope must be set before them as “an anchor of the soul, sure and firm” (Heb 6:19a). This virtue can give them security and stability despite the vicissitudes of their lives. Here in Saints Peter and Paul’s Parish – Fadugu, we are happy to journey with all young people as we look forward for the coming synod of Bishops of Young People, the faith and vocational discernment.
 POPE BENEDICT XVI, Africae Munus, n°60.
 Ibid., n°150.
 Ibid., n°151.
POPE JOHN PAUL II, Ecclesia in Africa, n°42.
 POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n°14 §3.
 At Saints Peter and Paul Parish – Fadugu (Diocese of Makeni, Sierra Leone), most of our parishioners are Limba. This is why we should learn Limba language if we want to win the confidence of the populace (cf. Maximum Illud, n°24).
 The Importance of Culture in Language Learning/ The Language Blog in https://billzart.wordpress.com
 POPE BENEDICT XV, Maximum Illut, n°24.
 POPE BENEDICT XVI, Spe Salvi, n°2.