The State of the World’s Children 1995 Report, contained a special message-cum-caution from an authority no less than James P. Grant, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “Unless the investment in children is made, all of humanity’s most fundamental long-term problems will remain fundamental long-term problems.” Grant recalled that leaders from 159 countries representing 99% of the world’s population made a promise at the World Summit for Children. It was the first time that the needs and problems of children were examined at such a high forum. At that Summit, the world’s leaders not only endorsed the lofty principles but also put their signatures to a document committing themselves and their governments to a Plan of Action. A Plan of Action that, in effect, invites the world governments accountable for what they do or do not do for their children. The commitment was intended to be accomplished by the year 2000.
The United Nations had declared the year 1979 as the International Year of Children. The Government of India had specifically set up a board for the upliftment of children in 1978. In the meantime, a study was carried out by the Ranchi and Osmania Universities (India) where they have gone to the extent of saying, “The communal elements in almost all religious groups are gaining ground and unless practical steps are taken immediately, the younger generation will grow up in an environment of hatred, suspicion, external dissensions, unrest and will destroy the society. The hint is that communalism would reach such proportions that it would not be even under the control of those responsible for unleashing it. These troubles do not churn up overnight. A whole new generation of haters is being prepared for action, as though religious slots are being drilled into little heads.” All this is true, but the universities did not suggest a way out.Human Rights Watch, which has examined children from about 24 countries facing conflict situations, has found that rather than serving as safe havens, schools have come to represent terror and trauma to those children, many of whom refuse to return to them. 17 years old Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school girl, recently made an impassioned appeal at the U.N. for universal education, pleading for education for sons and daughters of even the Taliban and children of all terrorists and extremists. She stressed that one child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Malala says books and pens are most needed for the younger generation. She shares Nobel Peace Prize-2014 with Kailash Satyarthi who with his Bachpan Bachao Andolan has rescued 80,000 child labourers in India. Millions of children are reported to be still at work with no access to education. Satyarthi refuses to accept that the world is so poor, when just one week of global military expenditure is enough to bring all our children into classrooms.
The dead do not speak. But the 132 young children diabolically massacred in Army Public School, Peshawar (Pakistan) on December 16, 2014 have certainly their tragic tale to tell. A tale of dismay, ill-will and of an irreligious act echoing Shakespeare’s concern, “What fool these mortals be!” This is not the isolated instance shocking the international community. It reminds us of many other similar attacks including the September 2004 Beslan massacre in Russia resulting in the deaths of 385 people including 186 school children. When children and the promising youth close to their prospective careers are vulnerable to unimaginable carnage, the whole talk of their empowerment is a sham.
The truth of the ancient Latin adage, ‘homo humini lupam est’— man unto man is a wolf, is more vivid to-day when we notice the shocking crash of human values both vertically and horizontally. One of the greatest obstacles to peace and prosperity is religious terrorism. Religion has lost its gravity. One wilts like salad under salt on watching insensitive killings in the name of religion. With the growing grip of chaos and violence, spirituality has a game changing role to play in reminding us of our humanity. If peace based progress is the need of the day, spiritual awakening through actual knowledge of Fatherhood of God is the only means to achieve it. Its spontaneous by-product is the emotional brotherhood of mankind.
Today, the youth who expected religion to endorse humanity feels frustrated, “What good is religion if it perpetuates so many innocent murders every day across the globe.” The young people are fast weaning away from religion.
A question arises: what should a properly educated young graduate know? In their searching article, “Reason and Religion at Harvard,” John I. Henkins and Thomas Burish of the University of Notre Dame, mentioned. “A Harvard curriculum committee proposed an answer to that question in October 2006 stating that, among other things, such a graduate should take a course to know “the role of religion in contemporary, historical, or future events personal, cultural, national or international.” And if Harvard says taking a course in religion is necessary to be an educated person, it’s a good bet that many other colleges and universities will soon make the same discovery.
The courses it envisions would offer an examination of “The interplay between religion and various aspects of national and/or international culture and society. They would deal not so much with the relationship between reason and faith as with reasoning about faith, religion and religious institutions and their impact in the world.” Another study reveals that Canadian college students involved with campus religious ministers are likely to have fewer visits to the medical clinic, score high in psychological well-being and experience less stress during difficult life events.
The Sant Nirankari Mandal
Sant Nirankari Mandal, Delhi believes that material poverty is a curse and mental poverty is worse. Whatever one gets in childhood becomes the roots for youth and future course of his life. Therefore, providing a strong base for a meaningful life, children are not only to be molded but also to be unfolded spiritually.
It is admitted at all hands that children’s protection and proper upbringing is a prerequisite for prosperity of humanity at large. Now a question arises how should the children be brought up so that they become ideal citizens and add to the pride of the society. Going by the historical experience and the grotesque picture of the present-day society, one can witness the fact that while fulfilling the material needs of the children, it is essentially required to equip them with positive thought and divine character. In the absence of purity in thought and action, we cannot anticipate any improvement in human society. Good and pious thoughts can help in solving intriguing problems of society, whereas evil thoughts and deeds can spoil even the best set of circumstances.
Poverty is not limited to financial aspects. Empowerment of parents is equally important for empowering children and youth. If the parents wish their children to adopt the human values and be obedient and respectful to them, the same should be conveyed to the infants not through mere words but through their own daily doings and dealings. There is no better way to instill spirituality in our children than to first be practically spiritual ourselves.
Sant Nirankari Mandal holds that the highest education to children is that which does not merely give information but makes life in harmony with all existence. Along with their school education, the spiritual touch imparted to children helps them gain new heights in life and develops them as ideal citizens. They lead a purposeful dignified life and maintain order in the society. For them the world is one and much bigger than that denoted by their postal address. Intimate relationship with Supreme Divinity helps in changing the roots for the best fruits. Nirankari Baba Hardev Singh Ji Maharaj says, “The Sole aim of education is to educate the soul.” While we need to have agenda to overcome the issue of material poverty in children, setting up a methodical plan to ensure soul education to children would be an extremely important step to cure mental poverty which would allow children to face the world with more positivity, tap resources in friendly manner and then turn up into responsible youth. This gives a valid line of discussion on the role of spirituality in the life of children and youth.
Youth and the Parents
It is often seen that children ill-treat their aged parents. They are sent out of their homes and subjected to unspeakable torture. Leaving the parents to the will of God, sons and daughters are interested in their will about property. Watching their tears and prayers, Goethe once said that an aged man is always “King Lear.” When the cruel treatment of his two daughters made his life hell, King Lear cursed them, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.” Many parents today are spending sleepless nights in anxiety and distress over their children’s behaviour and their changing attitude towards them. Who is responsible for this sorry state of affairs: the youth or the parents?
All the scriptures and ideals of society enjoin upon the youngsters to be obedient and grateful to parents. The 5th commandment in the Holy Bible expressly lays down, “Thou shall honour and serve thy father and mother.” Children are expected to love parents as much as they love the Lord. Describing parent-child-relationship, Islamic Law says that after Allah, parents are the persons who give us innumerable favours. They provide protection, food and clothing to the newly born. It says, “And your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none except Him and shall do your parents a good turn.” Nirankari Babaji shares his own life experience to stress that ‘good turn’ means loving, obeying, speaking softly, caring for their needs, especially in their old age. For harmony in the house and society at large, parents do well to catch their children young for a spiritual touch. In turn, children are advised to remember the Hadith, “Paradise lies under the feet of parents.”
Youth and the Mission
True Master keeps his fingers on the pulse of the people. In a mammoth Children’s Samagam, held at Chandigarh on the New Year Day of 1995, Child-devotees from other States from across the country enthusiastically participated in large numbers. The children presented a wide variety of items of spiritual, moral and ethical import: to be fair in doings and dealings, to be obedient to parents and elders, to be conscientious students and to avoid bad company, violence and use of intoxicants etc. etc.
\Starting in 1987; there are now over 2500 units of functional children / youth congregations. To ensure their secular and spiritual development, they organise regular congregations, samagams, competitions etc. The children and youth Samagams activities have become regular feature to sustain the spiritual outlook, Nirankari Babaji who always evinces an absorbing interest in the activities of children and youth says, “Thinking which is developed in the childhood is pure, pious and innocent because it is free from the sense of high and low; mine and thine. As such, they should be provided with a healthy environment to sustain the same when they grow up.”
\Youth is cut off from noble values and rich culture. Teachings of the Mission attract them to the Forum of the Mission and they adopt those values without coming into conflict with their environment. Today Nirankari youth is known as a model in society in all respects. The Sant Nirankari Mandal has its branches across India and overseas with infrastructure for empowerment of youth.
When the Mission starts, it is the founder devotees who put their heart and soul in establishing it. Thereafter, it is the second line who work for the Mission in unison and globalise it in the interest of all. Identifying the second line, it is obviously the youth whose intimate involvement in the Mission has been stressed time and again by Nirankari Babaji. While the Mission looks forward to the youth to carry the Mission at every door step, at the same time youth equally needs the Mission to spiritualise their energy for an accomplished and blissful life. There is a reference, interalia, in the Holy Bible that remembrance of God should begin in youth when he can contribute in the service of mankind. In case one gets aged, he may not find any interest in God as by then one is fully engaged in worldly life. Conversely, the impact of attaining knowledge of God by youth is directly to inspire in the very beginning of one’s life to vouchsafe pious and meaningful life: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come, and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.” Ecclesiastes 12:1
The aging guards of the Sant Nirankari Mission pointedly focus on the youth and safeguard them from deviating from the path of Truth. On the other hand, it is the foremost task of youngsters to study the literature of Mission and imbibe its philosophy. This not only helps them sort out their own queries, but also makes them well-versed potential representatives of the Mission. The enlightened and educated youth successfully makes inroads in every strata of society and can convince the seekers logically and scientifically.
Satguru Babaji stresses, “The youngsters need to be brought forward. Involvement of youth should essentially be made a part of our system. There is a bubbling enthusiasm in youth. During Nirankari International Samagam in Birmingham (U.K.) in August, 2012, the youth remarkably participated in social-welfare activities. The Mission got exposure and became widely known across the world. Ever since the establishment of Sant Nirankari Charitable Foundation, the Mission is getting added exposure in socio-charitable activities which goes to the credit of youth.``
With the blessings of Satguru Babaji, when the maturity of elders is combined with the dynamic energy of the youth, it produces wonderful results. The elders have a major role to play to help the youth to achieve better. Let the elders and the youth around the world open their close fists for a promising hand-shake. This would give new dimension to the message of the Mission and prove:-
“When the Mission and Youth combine, It promises success of Second Line.” Appreciation by U.N.
The issue of broadly addressing the problems of children and youth continues to gain momentum and importance. A very visible example of this is the upcoming focus of the United Nations who feel with due concern that empowering youth is crucial. “Half the world is under 25 years of age. Young women and men everywhere want decent jobs. They want dignity. They want a greater say in their own destiny,” said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently. With the purpose of leveraging the potential of youth in solving global challenges, ECOSOC quoted this at a Youth Forum in March 2013. Another Session was held in the first week of July 2013 in Geneva specifically to dilate upon the cross-cutting theme, “Science Technology and Innovation and the Potential of Culture for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.” ECOSOC (U.N.) aims to spot light the possibilities available for the world’s youth to harness and the Secretary General has given priority to working with and for the youth in his 5-year Action Agenda with the intention to bring attention to their potential as problem-solvers, innovators and actors for development.
Having Special Consultative Status with U.N., the Sant Nirankari Mandal, Delhi-9 is often called upon to offer views and the role played by us in various socio-spiritual and charitable fields. In the matters of “Child Poverty” and “Youth Empowerment” our view was acknowledged like, “Thank you so much for your comments, we are sure you are raising very important points of spirituality. We need to keep comments coming!”