, 31 January, 2020 / 5:23 AM
The Christian youth leadership in South Sudan has expressed its commitment to supporting the activities of Young Christian Students (YCS) in secondary schools and tertiary learning institutions countrywide in a manner that will enable members of the movement in the world’s youngest nation to participate actively in international forums.
The commitment was made in Juba on Tuesday, January 28 during the election of YCS national leaders drawn from different Catholic institutions in the country. The leaders pledged to revitalize the YCS movement and to provide members with training that will be customized to the needs and challenges that South Sudan is facing, and the civic role of the youth in the country.
“Our role mainly is to enrich students’ movement with good values,” the youth Coordinator of Juba Archdiocese, Dr. Simon Gore Augustino told ACI Africa correspondent during the election at Juba’s St. Joseph Parish.
He added in reference to the relationship between YCS leaders and the youth who are members, “We mainly equip them with leadership skills, spirituality, how to conduct meetings and to co-exist among themselves, the unity they need to have through the Christian movement and values that they need to share.”
The Archdiocese of Juba has reactivated YCS movements in 16 learning institutions, done in an effort to advocate for peace and reduce violence among the young people in secondary schools and create an opportunity for youth to be good leaders with gospel values, ACI Africa correspondent has disclosed after interacting with the Christian youth leaders.
YCS members who spoke to ACI Africa correspondent in South Sudan said the support from the newly-elected national leaders of the movement will go a long way in enhancing the members’ visibility on the global space.
Speaking to ACI Africa correspondent after the elections of YCS national leaders, the Secretary General of Juba Archdiocese, Fr. Samuel Abe, appealed to the members of the movement to be exemplary in relating with their fellow students.
“Let us try to be light and salt of the earth, because if we are light we will be able to show to the other youth outside there that this is the way we should live as young people in the society,” Fr. Abe said adding, “I would like that you be united, show this unity in your schools because there is no tribe in YCS. YCS embraces all the 64 tribes of South Sudan and goes beyond to the world.”
Fr. Abe who doubles up as Acting Chaplain for the youth in Juba Archdiocese also disclosed that this year, when the world will be marking the centenary of YCS, Sudan and South Sudan will mark be celebrating the 35th anniversary of existence of the movement in the two sister countries.
South Sudan is listed among the African countries that belong to the International Young Christian Student (IYCS), a Catholic action movement of the apostolate of the laity. Based in Paris, France, IYCS is traditionally an evangelization agent in secondary schools as well as institutions of higher learning.
Also referred to as Jeunesse Étudiante Chrétienne (JEC) or Young Christian Students, the movement has a presence in Africa, Asia, Australia, the US and Europe.
There are some 16 YCS/JEC in Eastern Africa, West Africa in the Great Lakes and in Southern Africa. These movements include Burundi JEC, Kenya YCS, Lesotho YCS, Burkina Faso JEC and Central Africa Republic JEC. Others include Ghana YCS, Chad JEC, Nigeria YCS and Gabon JEC.
In Nigeria for instance, YCS was introduced in 1959, making the country the first to have the movement in west Africa. It was then known as Young Christian Students till 1982 when Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) decided to change it to Young Catholic Students.
Objectives of the Nigerian movement are centered on personality development and leadership through talent exposure, faith formation, building up a better future as well as fighting for social justice and peace.
Kenya Young Christian Students (YCS Kenya), on the other hand, has a presence in 23 dioceses all over the country and provides civic education and human rights awareness tools to youth aged between 15 and 26 in secondary schools and in colleges, YCS Kenya official website has documented.
The Kenyan youth movement also conducts youth rallies that brings together thousands of youths in schools who take part in Holy Mass, get an opportunity to interact with each other and discuss issues affecting the country.
In South Sudan, YCS has played a key role in bridging youth leadership, building social relations as well as in providing spiritual orientation to youth in schools through diocesan pastoral agents, Dr Gore said.
It is at the backdrop of emerging gangs made of young men aged between 15 and 20, which Dr Gore blames on lack of Christian values, that the church is seeking to revive the student movement whose method is “See-Judge-Act”.
“YCS is trying to avoid crimes perpetrated by the youth who seek shortcuts to survival,” Dr Gore told ACI Africa correspondent and added, “Such youth lack the values and life skills and they easily give up in life. We aim to support our students in schools, at home and in the Church so that we don’t give them a chance to go to the world that is destroying them.”
Highlighting some of the activities that would keep the students engaged in the YCS movement, Dr Gore said the students would have an end-month Mass “that is one of the strongest elements supporting them spiritually. They have activities lined up including Bible sharing.”
19-year-old outgoing secretary of YCS, Dalia John, shared with ACI Africa the benefits of the organization to the young people in the schools.
“Many students are abandoning criminal groups such as Niggas (an all-youth criminal group in South Sudan), and are joining YCS where they know they can find activities like sports, leadership training and how to be a good parent. They are in turn doing well in their class as well,” YCS outgoing secretary Dalia John told ACI Africa on the sidelines of the election exercise Tuesday, January 28.
She recounted how the movement had impacted on her own personal development saying, “I have become patient and cooperative and I have made many new friends even outside the country. I have friends in Zimbabwe, Paris, and my own students here in South Sudan. I am grateful.”
Jane Peter, who had been in charge of finances at the movement said the role had equipped her with leadership skills and management of finances.
“By God’s will,” said Ms. Peter who went to Juba Commercial Secondary, “I believe I will be a minister of finance in South Sudan. I will not be corrupt because I fear the almighty God.”
The students recounted their experience in past activities organized by IYCS Africa. In November last year, IYCS Africa held a week-long 11th Pan African Council in Harare, Zimbabwe under the theme, “Youth engaging towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): the contribution of students in Africa.”
It was also at the continental event that the election of the Pan African Coordination team for the period 2019-2023 was conducted.
Members of YCS movements from African countries that were present were also trained on transformative leadership, personal development and advocacy in their respective countries.
Information provided on the IYCS official website where the regional offices are listed details the apostolic role of the global movement as “evangelization and sanctification of men and the formation of a Christian conscience among them so that they can infuse the spirit of the Gospel into various communities and departments of life.”
Thus, “IYCS aims to transform the student milieu in the light of the Gospel. It has a preferential option for the poor and the oppressed. It educates and trains students to work for solidarity, freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
Topics outlined are those which have direct consequences in the life of pupils and students such as promotion of education, enhancing peace and conflict resolution in school and academic milieus, the preservation of the environment, good governance, solidarity actions, and fraternity.
Peter Mapuor Makur contributed to this story