What do the youth do in the crisis?

What do the youth do in the crisis?

Young people wearing mouth-nose protection © Iryna Inshyna (shutterstock)

Pope Francis has urged young people to do more to help the elderly. They already do, says new BDKJ chairman. It is not only in the Corona crisis that it becomes clear that young people are not only committed to their own interests.

Interviewer: Mr. Podschun, do young people do too little for older people??

Gregor Podschun (BDKJ Federal President): I don't think young people do too little for older people. They are very committed to intergenerational justice and to an overall society worth living in. They are committed to a humane society – and not just their own interests. They do this, of course, from their own perspective. But many young people, especially in the youth associations, have been involved in the past. This is what the 72 hours action has shown. That's also shown by "Fridays-for-Future," where young people are working for a climate-just society, not just out of their own interest, but because they believe it's good for everyone.

Even if we look at the church side: In the Synodal Way, young people are working for a church that is fit for the future as a whole, not just for themselves. I do believe that there is currently a kind of "physical distancing" due to the corona, which is also important at the moment. But I think the term "social distancing," which is often used, is wrong, because we should not distance ourselves socially at all.

Interviewer: The whole thing is not one-sided, but young people can also benefit from old people. Old people are like roots for the young, Pope Francis said. Without them they could not grow and flourish. Then he called for a bit of spontaneous applause for all the grandparents of the world. What do you think is the most important thing we can learn from our grandparents??

Podschun: I think it's quite important for young people to learn from history. Because history determines the present, and I believe that biographical work with people who have already experienced a lot is very important. You can learn from this and develop your own society from it.

It is important to perceive the perspectives of older people, to assess them from today's point of view and then to draw conclusions for one's own commitment from them. In fact, the perspective of older people is very diverse and not as one-sided as it is often portrayed. I think these are valuable experiences that young people can take with them for their own lives and also for shaping society.

Interviewer: The Pope had a few more ideas: Make phone calls, make video calls, write text messages, listen to the elderly and, where possible, visit them while respecting health regulations. What initiatives have there been from the ranks of Catholic youth in recent months??

Podschun: There is a lot going on. As an example, I can mention the BDKJ Limburg and its youth associations. They created the "Heaven sends us" campaign in the aftermath of the 72-hour campaign and set up a help network where people can network locally – with Caritas and the parish, with other organizations. They can also do that publicly to do shopping. Then there are errands or also technical support, conversations, prayers or digital group lessons.

Also in my homeland federation, the BDKJ Berlin and the youth federations, there was a co-operation between the Malteser youth and the Caritas. They have launched the "Crossing Generations" project, a visiting service for older people. There is the new project "72 good deeds in 2020" and of course also projects where shopping facilities have been created or also speaking time is made available for older people. Of course, everything is done in compliance with the necessary distance measures.

Interviewer: So a lot is already happening. You are now the new head of the umbrella organization of Catholic youth, the BDKJ. You have just been elected. Which topics do you now want to devote yourself to in particular?? Where might you add to the BDKJ national board team then?

Podschun: A big topic, which is of course on the agenda, is the Synodal Way. I am already allowed to be a member of the Synodal Way and also to work in a synodal forum. I believe that we have a great opportunity to redesign the church according to the vision of the youth associations and, above all, to create a shelter for children and young people. Of course, the focus is on coming to terms with sexualized violence within the church, and also within the BDKJ and its youth associations. So, of course, we have to deal with sexualized violence.

Then it is also the main task to support the youth associations on the ground in order to enable precisely such actions as I have just mentioned and to create the framework conditions for them and thus also to contribute to intergenerational justice. Generational justice will move us. It's a big ie, both in the area of climate change, in the area of pension systems, in the area of digitality – and so on. I think there's a lot of value in young people standing up for a livable society. And I would like to support this.

Interviewer: Many construction sites ahead of him. But it's clear that you're also keen on it?

Podschun: Yes, in any case. I have a lot of motivation, and I'm glad that it's starting now.

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