Germany – Youth between Marginalization and Participation: the Don Bosco Forum 2017 “… and you are out”

(ANS – Bonn) – The Don Bosco Forum in Bonn provided a platform for more than 400 guests to discuss social marginalization of youngsters. “It is our goal as Don Bosco to get youngsters out of isolation” emphasized the managing directors of Don Bosco Mondo (Christian Osterhaus) and of Don Bosco Mission Bonn (Nelson Penedo). Hundreds of young and long-term members of Don Bosco institutions worldwide, interested parties and representatives from politics and society attended the meeting at the University of Bonn.

by Kirsten Prestin

At the end of the Don Bosco Forum the participants of the prior scheduled International Youth Conference presented the results on the topic “Marginalization”. 40 teenagers from Europe and the Middle East were searching for ways out of radicalization. They presented the Forum with a video pleading for more tolerance and peace. In addition, their dancing performance served as an impressive testimonial of the meaning of marginalization. The teenagers experienced the encounter with participants from diverse countries as enrichment. One female attendee concluded: “the more we know about each other, the more tolerant we become.”

Father Thomas Koshy (SDB), Director of the Don Bosco National Forum for the Young at Risk (YAR) with headquarters in New Delhi, is aware of the meaning of marginalization of the young. Roughly ten million children live in the streets in his home country India. The 66-yr old father narrated about his work at the Don Bosco Forum. For decades he has been promoting the welfare of street children. Education is an important key to success.

Culture of Exclusion

The caste system constitutes a major problem in India demanding a strict separation of social classes. Accordingly, the so-called “untouchables” are excluded from society being forced into doing menial work such as toilet cleaning and trash disposal. Fr Koshy laments a culture of exclusion preventing progress.

The network YAR coordinates the work of 84 Don Bosco institutions within the country. The objective is to achieve a prohibition of child labor, advocacy for children´s rights and, in particular, to grant poor children access to education. Father Koshy knows many success stories. A former street child who had lost arm and leg during a train accident, graduated from university summa cum laude and is the current director of a Don Bosco Center.

Father Vincent Raj, deputy director of the Don Bosco establishment in Bethlehem, states that marginalization is part of everyday life. The 39-yr old Indian came to Bethlehem in 2006 and has worked at the Don Bosco institution since 2014. The Salesians run a bakery in Bethlehem feeding the community with bread, in addition, a technical school with 150 students and a vocational training center with 150 students apart from an artistic crafts center and a youth center. Muslims and Christians come to the Salesians. School formation is extremely important in Palestine; many teenagers drop out of school, cannot find a job, thus, slipping into delinquency, violence and radicalization.

Emotional Marginalization

There are also many youngsters in Germany who are marginalized encountering rejection.

“There is one form of emotional marginalization which leaves young people heavily scarred”, Simon Härting (SDB) stated, the educational director of the Don Bosco Youth Aid Center in Sannerz close by Fulda. “We had one boy with us who was rejected by his parents, grandparents, by his entire family. Nobody wanted to be in contact with him. As a protective measure, he built an armor, also physically. We did not manage to establish a relationship with him for a year, this being the most important factor – we must build up a relationship with the youngster.”

“Sometimes we reach our physical limits when the youngsters become aggressive or offensive which can hit us also physically. It is important to be well protected and to keep the focus on what is doable and what not. Regardless, Don Bosco always facilitates a fresh start over. We adhere by our familiar quotation, “In case of a doubt, we grant a tenth chance.”

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