On beein young and acting




What does it mean "being young"? We need to acknowledge that it is different from country to country, from culture to culture, maybe even from family to family.

While in many places there is a legal age, when you "come of age," start to vote, to drink, to have stricter responsibilities in front of the law, in many other cases these happen at quite different times. If in many European at 18 one is allowed to drive, drink alcohol, get married (except with parental consent when the age is 16) and vote, in the United States, driving can start at 16, voting and marriage generally at 18 (except with parental consent when the age is 15 or 16) and drinking at 21.

If you think this already sounds complicated, it only gets more complex when we leave aside the age definition and take a more cultural approach, recognizing that in many cultures as well as in practice youthness is associated also with practices such as engaging in a profession, getting married or leaving the household of your parents. Then "being young" can range from 6 to over 40. When you start working, when you get married, when you get to vote are all examples of "growing up". How about when you experience death, famine, dire injustice? Does that make people grow up? How about when you love and cross barriers because you follow your heart? Does that make you young, daring, and crazy?

Young people with energies, creativity, inspiration, openess and curiosity are indeed unjustly affected by violent conflict all around the world but also they are becoming more and more the protagonists for peace. Is this the good news of our times? There are certainly a number good reasons to believe it.

There is, now more than ever a wealth of information on peace, peacebuilding, human rights, conflict transformation. If 25 years ago there was no institution offering peace studies courses, now there are more than 20 offering peace degrees, and hundreds offering conflict transformation and peacebuilding courses. If not long ago youth were considered to be passive recipients of knowledge and societal education and perhaps occasionally revolutionaries now they are empowered to action in mirriads of directions. People Building Peace tells some of their stories. The Center for Peacebuilding International tells other stories of youth action in conflict. The Council of Europe (which is not EU! :) ) offers other chances for youth to learn, teach and become engaged in human rights promotion, youth policy decision making and social inclusion.

With all these things being said, we can only remember than choosing not do do anytihing is a choice in itself, and not acting might not be equal to 'do no harm.'

In and for peace,

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