Desmond Tutu explains why God is partial to young people, in comments from a press conference he gave in Sheffield this month to launch the global gap-year programme, Xplore, for young people aged 18-25 (used with permission).
As an oldie I have increasingly been wowed by young people. I have often been annoyed with you media people for really not being fair. You write banner headline stories about young people who go wrong. You hardly ever write stories about the many, many young people who do fantastic things. I just say, what is amazing is not that some young people go off the rails, make wrong decisions; what is so amazing is that not more of them in fact do that.
Just think now how young people can access the internet and I'm told there are some very, very 'interesting' things on there. They can access anything, and to find that we have young people who can still be so wholesome. I think of young people who could very well have stayed in their countries living comfortably. I've been to quite a number of poor countries and your breath is taken away completely by the number of young people who leave their homes and go and work in these poverty stricken places.
Now here we have a programme (Xplore) that says it wants to prepare young people to become what God wants them to be, because as you know we have a God who is extraordinarily partial to young people, using a Joseph, a David to fight Goliath, a Jeremiah, Mary the mother of Jesus. God constantly using young people.
When we were fighting against apartheid, the people who supported us most of all, not exclusively, but the people who supported us mainly were young people, the students at universities, and it's been so ever since.
You think of the Bonos and all of those people who say: 'Let us make poverty history.' Young people have been passionate in the support of that campaign. Young people are passionate in their support of a world that knows war no more. And here we have a fantastic programme that wants to prepare young people for exposing to their contemporaries the fact that God loves them, that they are very special to God, that God loves each one of them as if they were the only person on earth. Isn't that fantastic?
And these young people, and all of the others who are going to be part of this programme, are saying: 'For us it's not just a gap year where you go off and do something and return to do what you had already decided you were going to do. For us, it's a year that may turn our world upside down.' In fact, many of those who have gone on this programme return totally changed and want to do things they had never believed they would have wanted to do. So turning the world upside down for God is what Xplore says.
So we want you to know too that God gives up on no one. There isn't for God a hopeless case. No one is a hopeless case. No situation is irredeemable. Most people would have thought that South Africa before with apartheid was a totally lost cause. Well, it produced Nelson Mandela and did some very strange things. And look at Northern Ireland. Who would have believed that you would have seen Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley talking together on television.
So we say to these young people and to all of the others who are going to be part of this programme: go on dreaming. Go on being idealistic. Don't allow yourselves to be infected by the cynicism of oldies like us. We've made a mess of the world, and we're leaving it to you and know that you are going to help change it.