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Dear Jain Friends,

The Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue sends cordial greetings as you celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Shree Vardhaman Mahavir on 21 April this year. May this feast bring abundant blessings, happiness, peace and unity to your families and communities!

Young people account for more than a quarter of the world’s population today. Most of them are also educated. They form a dynamic segment of our international community, and they possess the ability and the potential to influence and shape our present and future with a blend of vision and passion, energy and creativity. Sadly, young people also are directly involved – either voluntarily or under duress – in the troubling scenarios of disruption of peace in different parts of our world. This may be due to religious fundamentalism, forms of extremism, hyper-nationalism and authoritarianism, or situations of injustice. All these exacerbate intolerance, hatred, fear, poverty, violence, conflicts and wars. In this regard, we deem it opportune to share with you some thoughts on how we, Christians and Jains, can shape young people into peacemakers and bridge-builders.

In educating the young, it is essential to understand them and their deep aspirations, their dreams and ambitions for a more fulfilling life. While some manage to realize their aspirations, a large number of them feel left out, rejected, or discriminated against, due to a lack of equal opportunities. Uncertainty and insecurity about their present and future leaves them disillusioned, frustrated and angry.

It is important, then, that the young be acknowledged as persons and agents capable of effecting positive change and progress. Young people, in general, care for the communities in which they live. They dream of a just, equitable and peaceful society and have their own particular perspectives, competencies and experiences. In situations of conflict, they also have significant contributions to make. It is unfortunate that, very often, they are not taken seriously, included in decision-making, or considered for leadership roles. Recognition of their worth and greater efforts to involve them actively in processes of development and peacemaking by listening to their voices, trusting in their abilities, and giving them responsibilities in the workplace, in educational environments and in undertakings aimed at excellence – all these are crucial for training them to be peacemakers and bridge-builders.

In helping the young to become men and women of peace and to build bridges between individuals and generations, it is essential to communicate that the common good of humanity is a goal that can only be achieved through mutual love and in solidarity with all those who are devoted to helping others and fostering peace. The productive potential of young people to promote truthfulness, amity, concord, and harmony needs to be recognized and allowed to flourish, through a confident and resolute commitment on the part of all.

All stakeholders in society – families, educational and religious institutions, religious leaders, governmental and non-governmental agencies, as well as the media – have a role to play in the formation of young people by fostering in them authentically humane values such as compassion, fraternity, forgiveness, reconciliation, service, and peaceful co-existence. In this regard, interreligious dialogue has a specific contribution to make. Our times need to meet the challenge of cultivating hearts and minds that can respect the transcendental dignity and inviolable rights of others, allow space for diversity and legitimate differences, and nurture a sense of our belonging to a “a single family dwelling in a common home” (cf. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, 3 October 2020, 17). In this way, men and women will be encouraged to pursue the path of a peace “founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love” (Saint Paul VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968).

The peace for which we all long needs to be built on a daily basis, by gestures of fraternity, service, and solidarity and, as Pope Francis says, “with our life, with our love, with our closeness, with our loving one another” (Address to Children of Italian Schools, 11 May 2015). In a word, by men and women of peace and good will who communicate these values to the young.

As followers of our respective religious traditions, convinced that young people can play a pivotal role in building peace in the world, may Christians and Jains join with the followers of other religious traditions and all people of good will in doing everything possible to help the young, individually and collectively, to become artisans and ambassadors of peace. In this way, the world will witness the beauty of love and of living together in fraternity and solidarity (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Pilgrimage of the Young People of Belgium, 10 October 2020)!

We wish all of you a happy feast of Mahavir Janma Kalyanak Diwas!


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