Youth drug abuse is now a visible phenomenon and wide spread. Many young people are dying of drugs. Pope Francis describes drug addiction as a new form of slavery and that drugs are “a wound in our society” (General Audience, St Peter Square, April 13, 2016). It is an emergent holocaust. What then does this point to? What is the response of the Church?
FOCUS OF THIS PRESENTATION
The focus of this presentation is on youth drug abuse and the Church’s pastoral response and care. The focus on the youth is derived by the quest to keep the youth in the Church. It has been noticed that there is an increasing number of youth who are falling victims to drug abuse. Those youth who are taking dangerous drugs, whether they find solace or pleasure in them, are being drugged out of the church and join communities of drug addicts and dealers where the dignity of a human person and moral values have no place in life.
YOUTH DRUG ABUSE AS AN EMERGENT HOLOCAUST.
The term emergent is used here to refer to something which is coming into being. It is a situation which requires immediate action to protect the youth from the fatalities of drug abuse. In this context youth drug abuse is becoming a kind of a holocaust coming into being. The common meaning of holocaust (HaShoah in Hebrew) refers to, “the systematic murder of more than six million Jews orchestrated by Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Nazi (Party) in Europe during World War II .” (The Holocaust Wing (jewishvirtuallibrary.org) 28 March 2023). Drug abuse by the youth of today is as it were ‘the concentration camps ’ of the Nazi Germany. Those youth who abuse the drugs are subjected to imprisonment of addiction and ultimately to death.
THE CHURCH’S PASTORAL CARE.
The pastoral care of the drug addicts is inspired by the teaching of the Church. Basing herself on the theology body, the Church teaches that man was created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-28). Man participates in the life of God and receives human dignity as a gift from God (Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2001 no 216). St Paul affirms the dignity of the human being in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20). Drugs and substance abuse destroy the integrity of the human person. The Church teaches that when God looks at man the first thing he sees and loves in him is his own image. Man’s image of God gives him the capacity to know and love God, his Creator (Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2001 no 218).
Drugs do not allow a person to make a free choice based on true human values. By taking drugs man escapes the reality of his existence. St John Paul ii teaches that drugs enslave a person. The Catechism of the Catholic Church further affirms, “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense” (CCC 2291). St John Paul ii further reiterates, “Drug addiction and alcoholism are against life. We cannot speak of the “freedom take drugs” or “the fight to drugs,” for man has no right to harm himself and neither can nor should ever abdicate the personal dignity which comes to him from God” (John Paul II, “To the participants at the International Conference on Drugs and Alcohol£, Nov. 23, 1991, n. 4).
Man is therefore prohibited to harm and kill himself and must at the same time protect the life of others. The Church calls upon all people to understand that drugs have nothing to contribute to the welfare of the human person. They will never give a human person created in the image of God true happiness. True happiness is found in God.
A SYNODAL PASTORAL RESPONSE
The Church in her pastoral response and care should take the synodal approach which leaves no one out from being educated and counselled. The gospel against drug and alcohol abuse should be proclaimed to all people both drug addicts and non drug addicts. Thus people of all ages, both old and young, men and women , people of all religions and cultures and all people. The pastoral response and care of the Church is tailored. The rational here is that drug abuse like other pandemics Covid 19 affects all people, either directly or indirectly.
THE CHURCH ACTS LIKE THE GOOD SAMARITAN
The church has to pay a special focus to those who are already addicted to drugs and alcoholism. We can compare them to the victim of robbers in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Drug abusers and addicts are helpless victims. They need therapy and rehabilitation. They need to be accompanied on journey redress their past and reclaim their dignity as children of God. Like the Good Samaritan, the Church acts with compassion without blaming the victim. Drug addicts represent the disfigured body of Christ. They need to be transfigured into the image of Christ.
THE CHURCH ACTS LIKE THE MERCIFUL FATHER
Drug abusers and addicts suffer from bad lebelling and stigma. They are known Drug addicts the society tend to exclude them and avoided. Their past tend to define them. Majority of them lost their careers and some had family relations broken. The Church like the Merciful Father should look at them as the lost sheep to found and like the prodigal son coming back to his father’s house (Luke 15:11-32).
A VOICE OF CONSCIENCE TO THE DRUG BARONS AND TRAFFICKERS.
Drug barons and traffickers are children of God who need to be converted. Like in the story of Cain and Abel, they need to know that they are accountable to the loss of life of their brothers and sisters to whom they sell drugs. They are their brothers and sisters’ keeper. God demands, ‘’Where is your brother?’ (Gen 4:9-16). Like Zacchaeus in the Gospel they should learn to live within their means (Luke 19;1-10).
A COMPEHENSIVE ONGOING FORMATION FOR ALL AGES.
The Church needs to design an ongoing formation for all ages should which treat extensively topics about human dignity and drug abuse. Children from tender age and young people should be taught the importance of respecting their bodies and those of others. Such formation should be given to both Christian non-Christian groupings.
CURRICULUM INCLUSION OF DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE
School curriculum from ECD to University should include topics on drug alcohol abuse. The Church working in partnership with Governments and other civic organisation should design a curriculum which carter for all levels of learning.
DRUG ABUSE EDUCATION
The Church in collaboration with the Government and other civic organisation should design drug abuse programmes and workshops employers and employees. Such programmes will ensure that people affected by stress and other problems will not resort to taking drugs.
Peer-education can work better when other young people can be involved in educating other young people on the dangers of drug abuse.
The church cannot be silent while this holocaust is taking. It is a different type of a war which the Church, governments and civil society must apply their minds together. May our Mother Mary intercede for us.