The Sunday Mail
AS Zimbabwe joined scores of Africans commemorating day of the African child and the just ended youth week, local religious groups were urged to tackle critical issues affecting the youth in the hope of shaping a better tomorrow coloured with religious teachings. With a catalogue of youth issues ranging from career guidance to early marriages, churches were encouraged to engage youths on career choices and foster progress in communities for today’s youth.
Reverend Jonathan Chatendeuka of Foundation International Ministries spoke about this during an expo under the theme Overcoming obstacles, pushing for progress.
“Jesus the founder of the church used to meet people’s needs. Likewise as his followers, we are supposed to not only meet the other critical needs of our members. We believe in the old adage that says, “It is better to build children than repair men.”
A study on the church set up by an American institution – Barna group — highlighted that while teenagers may look to the church for career advice, there is a gap between their future professional plans and the career guidance they receive from their churches or communities.
Statistics released in 2011 by the Barna group show that 38 percent of youth pastors and 36 percent of senior pastors say they frequently discuss college plans with their members.
Pastor Robert Westerfall of River of Life Ministries said parents and churches had the greatest influences on career selection.
“It is important for parents as well as churches to support and encouragement students to explore the many career options available. Usually the provision of such information and advice should start as early as possible so that pupils can pursue their dreams at a tender age and more so, if the process is started early, there is less likelihood of making unwise decisions,” he said.
African Traditional churches and communities have also been urged to tackle career issues and foster a better future for the youth.
Early marriages is also an area of concern.
Traditional leaders and traditional structures in communities are key and remain influential in most Africa societies. They wield influence and command respect in their communities.
Statistics provided by the UNFPA states that 31 percent of Zimbabwean girls under 18 years of age were exposed to early marriage while the Zimbabwe national statistics agency recorded that 16.3 percent of the local population is married by the age of 15.
Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs president chief Fortune Charumbira raised his sentiments against early child marriages and gender based violence. He highlighted the importance of working together to combat the challenges.
“Co-ordination is critical when it comes to certain practices and now that we are involved we can do our best to fight this.”
Religion has a critical role to play in fostering a brighter future for the youth of Africa. In addition to youth ministry departments, scripture seminars and youth events, religious groups continue to be encouraged to engage students and youths to tackle any ideologies that hinder their development.