This week, as we observed Youth Day in South Africa, I asked myself the question: what kind of world will we bequeath to our children?

The world we leave behind

In many parts of the world our generation has not succeeded. We have not made great strides towards eliminating unemployment. We have not built adequate systems to uplift and educate the poor or care for the vulnerable in our society. We have not done enough to protect our natural resources. We have not eradicated religious intolerance and extremism. Many of the leaders we elect are selfish, corrupt and unconcerned with anything other than their own power and prestige.

You may disagree, but I don’t believe we are leaving the world a better place than it was before us. Instead, we bequeath to our children a world filled with deep unrest, inequality and environmental crises.

The young fighting our battles

The next generation pays the high price for our failure. Our children will have to fight the battles that we should already be winning. Over the decades, it has often been the case that young warriors have to raise their fists and voices to bring change to a broken world.

The Soweto Uprising

South Africa’s Youth Day remembers one such battle. On 16 June 1976, the youth took to the streets in what became known as the Soweto Uprising. As they marched, the demonstrators encountered heavily armed policemen who fired teargas and live ammunition on them. At least 174 demonstrators died that day. The photograph of Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying mortally wounded Hector Pieterson (13) would become the iconic image condemning the evil Apartheid regime.

Other youth demonstrations

There have been other battles by young warriors, some just as costly:

Chinese students started a pro-democracy movement in 1989, that was violently quelled by authorities on Tienanmen Square.
In 2010 young people in the Middle East started a revolution—the Arab Spring—that swept through the entire area, toppling governments and sparking civil wars.
After tragic shootings in high schools, students in the USA organised events to demand gun-control legislation.
In 2019 thousands of young people from across the world protested government inaction on the climate crisis. One of the most outspoken climate change activists of our era, Greta Thunberg, is only 17 years old.

Leaving a legacy of hope

My friends, let us do better! In our lifetimes let us begin to leave behind a legacy of hope and peace for our children and grandchildren. Let us choose leaders that make policies with the future generation in mind. Let us do all we can—big and small—to fight climate change and avert other looming environmental crises. Above all, let us raise our children to be leaders and warriors for the significant battles they will need to overcome. Let us instill in them integrity, kindness and a deep abhorrence for racism, prejudice and injustice.

May the greatest legacy we leave to the world be our children.

Blessing for the Young
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12)

Bright-eyed one:
May you set alight what is dead and dry in the world
With passionate plans and dreams
With unclouded vision and hope.

Sure-footed one:
May your feet remain free from the tangling traps
Of worthless acquisition and wealth
Of power gained by trampling others down.

Compassionate one:
May you care for those torn by society’s sharp edges
On bent knees, pray for and serve them
On outstretched arms, carry and uplift them.

Deep-rooted one:
May your life grow in the soul knowledge that
in repentance and rest is your salvation
In quietness and trust is your strength.

Courageous one:
May you arise to be a mighty warrior
To raise voices in battle-cries of truth
To raise banners for justice and peace.

Victorious one:
May your generation leave a lasting legacy
of valued lives and nurtured nature
of a better world for children not yet born.

Other blog posts in this series:

A Season of Blessing: Rekindling a Lost Art

A Season of Blessing: For Those Who Grieve

A Season of Blessing: For the Lonely

A Season of Blessing: For the Day


Header Image: Pixabay

Soweto Uprising: Sam Nzima

Climate Change Demonstration: