Young people are the keystones of any culture. Youthful energy is needed to get work done in society. We provide new ideas, physical labor, laughter, the human connection to the future and the world community, and the push for reform and change in society.
So, in the United States, why are teen-agers considered nuisances? Why do we have one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world? Why are we spending $267 billion on the military to train youth to kill, and $42 billion on all other education? How can our government claim to provide security when its priorities place young people near the bottom of an expendable pile?
This past January, 17 young adults of many faiths and nationalities came together at Kirkridge retreat center in Pennsylvania for Fellowship of Reconciliations Peacemaker Training Institute (PTI), a weeklong nonviolence training program to engage youth in exploring activism.
Our training provided us with the space to get to know other equally passionate young people. At Kirkridge, we met students who have started their own campus groups to address some of the root causes of violence and insecurity: poverty, homophobia, hunger, human rights abuses, and their colleges investments in the military. They have founded their own peer mediation programs, support groups for rape victims, magazines, and peace and justice radio shows.
WOULD THAT nonviolence training was required for all students, and that the way of nonviolence practiced by Jesus, Dorothy Day, Gandhi, Muriel Lester, and Martin Luther King Jr. would be as much a part of our culture as commercial advertising. During our training, we visited a community-supported agriculture project and a womens shelter, as well as sheet-rocked for a day with Habitat for Humanity. Training like this helps young people realize that although so many of the problems in society seem overwhelming, each one of us has the power to take action to create change.