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We are in deep trouble. This trouble has come upon us because we fail to understand ourselves and the society in which we live. Since we are not part of the solution, we have become part of the problem.

We do not have a correct perception of the human person. The very image that we have of people reflects the perverted image which we have of ourselves. This we often display even when we condemn anti-social acts by members of our community.

Most sins committed are social sins. They come from the nature of the society which we have created. They cling to us very early in our lives. If we want to change our community, we have to begin at the very root of the society. We have to begin with our youth.

What is needed is to give our youth a new way of being, a new model. We have to make them envisage the possibility of a new kind of society. We have to seek to rebuild the image of the ideal person.

For this, we need to have a radical change. This can come about only by creating a new structure of human development. We have to withdraw our youth to a place where they can experience love and respect. This might entail a social revolution.

The family is indeed the proper place for human development. That is where we ought to begin. However, to a great extent, the family has failed us. Indeed, it is often dysfunctional or even non-existent.

Our schools are an ideal place to nurture a sense of responsibility in our youth. Our schools should be a good place to instill discipline, self-respect and a sense of purpose in our youth. However, there must be proper screening in the choice of teachers. Those who are to be teachers must themselves have learnt to live by moral standards. It is not enough to have attained academic excellence. There are many with PhD's who have not yet mastered the art of living.

Very importantly, they must have learnt to control their impetuosity and bad temper. Insulting and abusing students will not help but rather aggravate the situation. Even when students are at fault, their dignity as persons must be respected.

Our churches are a very important element in the building of society. Ministers of Christ, must pay more attention to what they preach or, for that matter, what they do not preach. They must be careful about the manner in which they transmit the divine message.

It is not enough to have projects and rallies. These might be little more than a source of distraction. What is particularly needed is to relate to young people on a one-to-one basis. They should be listened to and welcomed even if they might appear to be odd and no more than a nuisance.

We have to make time for young people. I well remember one young person complaining to me some years ago: "Father Jolly, you are not making time for me!" However, for adults to relate meaningfully to youth, they need a measure of maturity. Youth are often easily manipulated.

We, human beings, are famous for labels. But the only label we all have is that we are God's children. In that light, there is no such person as a thief, a liar, an adulterer, a rapist or a murderer. There is no such person as an alcoholic, a drug addict, a criminal. But there are a large number of people who are psychologically damaged. There are people who are deeply wounded. They need not to be labelled, nor to be despised but to be healed. We all bear the divine spark in us. There is no one so vile that he does not in some way manifest the goodness of God.

We live in a society in which we learn to conform. The world is often very hard on those who will not conform. To be different is very costly. The world will not tolerate it. Bishop Fulton Sheen tells us, "Even dead bodies can float downstream, but it takes a real man, a real woman to swim against the current." The mark of a good Christian is non-conformity. It is a firm decision to accept unpopularity and even persecution while addressing the burning life-issues at hand.


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