Early last year, Pope Francis called for an Episcopal Synod to take place this October, wherein several bishops from all over the world will gather to discuss concrete matters related to the youth, faith and vocational discernment.
Simply stated so, however, might imply that there is some untapped universal precept to address the plethora of views, desires, beliefs or non-beliefs, issues and multiple fragmented realities that youths face, and are faced with, today. More so, as it were, these highly personal ‘realities of youth’ will be discussed by middle-aged to ageing men of a professed religion. Surely these short-handed limitations could not reach all the branches of the fruit-bearing tree. In typical biblical analogy, it would be as if to say that a group of sowers are considering to laboriously plant different young sapling species in the same nutrient-starved soil, with old, rusty tools. But here, we cannot speak about a shared, common field, or the same type of sapling, or even, about the same kind of sower. Thankfully, in preparing for the eventual synod, the Church has understood this. And it is perhaps the reason why the run-up to the synod is far longer than the synod itself; and why the number of youths participating is far greater than the bishops discussing.
Computer and information technology in a globalized world, has dissolved practically all borders and has altered human limitations
One of the questions which is being asked during the international pre-synodal gathering of youths, now in its second day, is in view of our relationship with technology: “How does technology today, with its new opportunities and unprecedented dangers, contribute to determining young people’s identity and way of life?”
Last summer, the PoléPolé team of agara Foundation went to Lebanon carrying tens of laptops, and the motto ‘tearing borders’. This is a rather apt paradox. On the one hand, computer and information technology in a globalized world, has dissolved practically all borders and has altered human limitations; we have access to a common set of skills, to new and equal work opportunities; we are now connected more than ever before through a shared, “real”, virtual space; there is room for everyone and anyone; one can be whoever one wants; belonging is seemingly accessible, indiscriminately. These, of course, are as beneficial to our personal development as much as they can be detrimental, and therefore, we have to carefully choose how to use this technology when at our disposal with such leisure.
We have created a different kind of poverty, a different kind of thirst. Belonging, and making progress, would thus seem like a luxury, a mad dream, a mirage
On the other hand, for all the borders it might help eliminate, information technology has instead created another kind of border, which previously did not exist. Groups of people, thousands of youths, have been instantly marginalized and disadvantaged – intellectually, socially, globally. And they need not be crossing the desert or the sea in search of a better life. They could be living next door.
Youths who do not have access to computer technology or adequate training, and yet dream to belong and progress within this borderless, globalized world, are thus placed in an awkward and disheartening position. As the online-technological world continues to evolve and develop, and the dependence of the ‘offline’ world becomes ever more dependent on the ‘online-technological world’, the gap between those who have access and those who do not, widens. We have created a different kind of poverty, a different kind of thirst. Belonging, and making progress, would thus seem like a luxury, a mad dream, a mirage.
The encounter is thus as, if not more, valuable than the technology we have at our disposal
So what can we, of the luxury-camp, then do to bridge this widening gap?
What the PoléPolé campaign promotes – that is, of collecting and donating laptops to entities which could provide basic IT training to vulnerable groups – is only one simple way of going about it. But it certainly is not the only one addressing the issue. Furthermore, we could do much even on a purely personal level. Technology cannot be reversed, but if it were to be literally broken down, what we are left with is tekhne (craft, hand-work) and logia (science) – the “extremes” of human practice, which bring about progress only when brought together. Likewise, a person cannot be removed from the picture when determining ‘a way of life,’ and therefore, “progress” in life’s journey. The encounter is thus as, if not more, valuable than the technology we have at our disposal. Because most of the time, all we really need to move on, and to feel less alone, is the hand of a fellow traveller.
by Giulia Privitelli