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Keeping in Contact September 14, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Families.
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As I was perusing the Sunday papers I noticed a gadget for sale which is a child’s digital watch with a GPS locator in, so that parents can keep tabs on where their offspring are. But more than that, if the strap is undone by anyone other than the parent it sends a text to the parent letting them know that this has happened.

Now as someone old enough to remember growing up in the days when we went off playing for an hour or two with our parents knowing roughly where we were, this all seems a bit odd. I know we parents can worry but where does this all end? When do we equip children to be out of contact?

I wonder if we are in danger of creating a very infantile culture. It seems to me that babies need to be in constant contact, and we want to know where babies are to make sure they’re safe. But isn’t part of maturing the ability to be out of contact and be able to negotiate life safely? But as we are constantly connected either by GPS watch, or mobile, or Facebook… when do we mature?

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Youth Stats September 1, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people.
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The BBC has got an interesting report by the OECD which finds that 15 year old girls in the UK are more likely to get drunk than in any other developed country and more so than 15 year old lads in the UK. This makes for a good shock headline for the article, and whilst it is a serious issue that youth workers need to be aware of, right at the end however are a couple of sentences to celebrate some of the good work going on here in the UK.

It states that ‘children in the UK enjoy a high quality of school life and enjoy school much more than many of their international counterparts. Also bullying is less frequent and teenage suicides are less common in the UK than in most other industrialised countries’.

Pakistan blasphemy legislation petition August 26, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Justice.
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I often get asked whether Christian-Mulsim dialogue is a worthwhile activity. People want to know whether it actually achieves anything, do we tackle difficlut issues or just sit round having a nice time.

Well I hope the following link gives some indication of the fruits of our labours. It’s a petition to the Pakistani governement asking for the repeal of the Blasphemy laws in that country. These laws have been used by some Muslims to legitimise attacks on christians and this happened in a particularly viscious way recently.

This petition has been written by a Muslim and a Christian and has come about in part due to the discussions we’ve had at dialgue events where we’ve been able to highlight the plight of Christians in Pakistan in a way that doesn’t blame the Muslims here but enables them to see the injustice of what’s happening.

Do take a look, sign it if you can, and if you’re unsure about the value of dialogue I hope this inspires you to see its worth and get involved.

Pakistan blasphemy legislation petition

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A Cross Cultural Gathering August 25, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Entertainment.
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I’ve just got back from a very nice trip to France with the family. We visited a variety of interesting places: castles, caves, towers, cafes etc. During our 2 week stay there was one moment when I realised I was in a truly multi-cultural setting. I was surrounded by Muslims Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and secular people from a wide variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds. All of us joined together with a common purpose… to see Mickey Mouse come past in the parade at Disneyland Paris! For all it’s glitz and commercialism Disneyland was a truly global, multi-cultural and multi-faith gathering, much more so than any other tourist sight we visited.

Now I do try not to spend my hols reflecting on work, but it did strike me as interesting, and perhaps a challenge to those of us engaged in bringing together young people of different faiths. I’ve always resisted taking young people to visit churches or mosques as I’m not convinced that’s what they want to do. The new charity a few of us have set up is called The Feast to reflect our ethos of celebration and enjoyment at bringing people together. But here it was writ large, not perfect, but an interesting challenge.

More to Learn August 14, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Youth Work.
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The other day I spent some time with the Faiths Act Fellows . This is a group of 30 young leaders spending a year with The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. They came from the UK, the USA and Canada and included Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Athiests and Bhuddists. Whilst I was providing some training for them on dialogue with young people it also gave me some great insights into the diversity one encounters when working on a wider scale. They raised issues of concern to their communities and in their situations. Some of the guys from the States and Canada brought up concerns that I haven’t encountered here in the UK.

I have to say that they were a group of enthusiastic, passionate young people committed to doing something towards building peace and understanding. And in doing so taught me, once again, that however much I might think I know there’s always plenty more to learn.

Is it Just me? August 4, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Young people.
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There is, what I think is, a rather worrying report on the BBC website today about the increasing numbers of teenagers ‘sexting’. Sending intimate or sexually explicit images by ‘phone. The report highlights the dangers of this and in the middle of it there is this quote from Helen Penn from CEOP The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which I’m sure is an excellent organisation. However, she says “We can completely understand why young people want to post these images to each other.” Perhaps it’s just me being prudish or old fashioned but given all the inherent dangers or problems associated with this … I can’t.

Real Friends? August 3, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Media, Young people.
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There’s been 3 items about social networking that have caught my attention in the past few days

The first was the report written by 15 year old Matthew Robson claiming that few of his friends ued Twitter and wanted stuff for free off the internet. It seems to challenge some of the previously held views about the way teenagers use the internet

Second was Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflections that over use of soical networking leads to young people not being able to form authentic friendships

Finally was Thought for the Day by Giles Fraser that argued that too often church was only interested in ‘thick communities’ ie the traditional close knit community. Whereas for young people who were different, either through ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith, fashion or whatever then the ‘thin community’ on-line provided a place for them to find genuine community.

Different views, different ages. No real conclusions but a discussion that youthworkers need to keep up with in the coming years / months / weeks depending on how fast all this changes!

Relating to today’s world June 5, 2009

Posted by John Stephenson in Media, Youth Work.
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I am currently at a Scripture Union conference and we have been thinking about the way in which the world – particularly the digital world – influences our task of mission with children and young people. Andrew Graystone from the Churches Media Council suggested that there have been 4 ages

a) Oral (one to one) – communication largely through face to face relationships

b) Print (Literary) (one to many) – now the need for face to face shifts and the ability to communicate without relationship opens up. It encourages linear and propositional truth

c) Broadcasting (a few to many) – control rests in all cases with those creating the content

d) Digital (many to many) – all are broadcasters and the network functions to allow truth to be relative and undermined

Its a simplistic analysis but it offers a useful framework for thinking about how we work with children and young people in today’s world.

He also talked about the way that media is converging – perhaps the 19.2 million watching Britain’s Got Talent are an indication of the convergence. Maybe there will be some things that breakthrough the tribal nature of youth culture.