Opportunities for Youth Ministers
Opportunities for Youth Ministers

Young People & Social Justice

Supporting young people to engage with Justice and Peace issues

What is Justice and Peace?

The Justice and Peace movement is based on Catholic Social Teaching. We believe that:

  • Every person has equal value and dignity.
  • We all have a responsibility to care for one another in society and work for a fair society.

In his most recent encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, Pope Francis asks us to “heed the cry of the poor and the earth”. He pleads with us to remember we are “one human family.”

Young people and Justice and Peace

Young people have in many cases a strong sense of fairness and the energy to do something about injustice. We, as adult facilitators, need to acknowledge this and learn from their energy and passion. We can do this by giving them the opportunity to express their ideas around social justice and listen actively to them.

We also need to be aware that many young people may be living with the consequences of injustice. For example, their family may need to use a local food bank, they may have come to this country as refugees, or they may be dealing with the consequences of cuts in social care funding and NHS shortfalls.

Suggestions for Adult Facilitators

Start from the young people’s own thoughts and experiences. It may be enough just to ask them what issues they are most concerned about. It may be something like lack of support for Mental Health issues, anxiety about exams, or a sense of injustice over a school rule that they think is irrelevant. They may be concerned about climate change or unemployment.

The list is endless and we need to create an atmosphere where they can safely share these ideas. Depending on the group and how well they know each other, this may be a simple or a complex process. Some groups may benefit from the approach used by the Young Christian Workers “Review of Life”. You can read about it here  

Others may benefit from a less structured approach.  The following are some ideas that may be helpful.  This in no way is a conclusive list, just a few suggestions to get started.

  • Follow the suggestions of the YCW Review of Life http://www.ycwimpact.com/downloads
  • Lead a group and use mind mapping to encourage young people to share issues around justice that are important to them. Get the group to vote and choose one issue. Then discuss it, ask why this injustice is happening, get resources to learn more about it, plan an action.
  • Look at the Diocesan Social and Environmental Justice Policy, based on Laudato Si. You can find it on the diocesan website, under Departments, Justice and Peace 
  • What can you do to put this policy into action…at home…at church…at school?
  • Watch a film or documentary such as ‘I Daniel Blake’ (cert 15). Discuss. Ask questions….why is this injustice happening? What can I do to make a difference? Church Action on Poverty http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/ are currently running a campaign around universal credit, a theme of the film.
  • Spend some time thinking about refugees. CAFOD have good resources. https://cafod.org.uk/ 
  • Younger groups may enjoy watching Paddington (2014) film which brings out many of the issues around refugees in an accessible way. Older groups may benefit from watching “Leave to Remain’ (2013) Cert 15 which uses stories based on real life experiences of refugees.
  • What is happening in our local community? Perhaps there is some local action taking place……campaigning for a playground, growing food for a community, collecting goods for a food bank, involvement with Tyne and Wear Citizens. Would a speaker come to the group to talk about the issue?
    Why this happening is/ what can we do about it?
  • Does your parish or partnership have a Justice and Peace group? Find out what issues they are involved in at the moment and take inspiration. Perhaps there is some joint action that could be accomplished.
  • Look at updates from the National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN) https://www.justice-and-peace.org.uk . (NJPN can also be accessed via Facebook.) Are there any current actions which are of interest?
  • Look at the BBC news website. What issues are being talked about? What concerns you?
  • Who makes our clothes? Look at where your favourite piece of clothing was made. How ethical is our favourite shop? Labour behind the Label http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org works to create a fairer deal for the people making our clothes. They can also be accessed by Facebook and give regular campaign updates.
  • Is there an area of the world where there is war or violent unrest that concerns you? You could learn more about that area and have a simple time of silent prayer for peace in that part of the world. This could be in your school, parish or at home, perhaps with focus for your prayer, with a photo from that area, a cross and a candle.
Young People and Social Justice

Pax Christi
Excellent resources for use with young people on a range of peace issues

Issues across the developing world, refugees, focus around climate change issues.

Young Christian Worker
Working with Young people

Columbans UK
They have a specific page for Justice and Peace issues.

Jesuit Refugee Service
Very good resources for understanding issues around refugees and asylum seekers and our Catholic response

Church Action on Poverty
Details of current actions and campaigns around poverty in the UK can be found here.

Labour Behind the label
Working to improve the work conditions and rights of people making our clothes across the world and ideas for action.

Here are some examples of the wonderful work young people in our Diocese do around Justice and Peace.

  • ‘We had an assembly at school raising awareness of the refugee crisis.  I thought about my link with the Justice and Peace Refugee Project and decided to approach the school about supporting the project.  I organised a collection in school of biscuits and supplies which were needed for the project and subsequently helped in donating them. This established a link between our school and the project.’

    Year 10 Student
  • ‘In April 2018 I was fortunate enough to go to Lourdes as a young helper alongside other students from my sixth form. The trip was the opportunity of a lifetime and I can now see why people describe it as life-changing. Lourdes is a place of pure love and joy.  Throughout the week we spent time with children who had disabilities, or lived with someone who had a disability and needed time to relax and take a step back. To be able to help these children find happiness, through games, music and dance was such an honour and I have never seen happiness like it. Over the course of the week we welcomed hundreds of family groups into Mass, held parties and times of singing for the children, painted faces and bonded as a group, leaving as a family.  I gained so much from our trip to Lourdes: confidence, compassion and the ability to see things through other people's perspectives and I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to go.

    Sixth Form Student