Bishop Victor Phalana’s Open Letter to the Youth of South Africa on the National Youth Day 16 June, 2020


-By Bishop Victor Phalana,  the Chairperson of SACBC Justice and Peace Commission.

Dear young South Africans,

 Forty-four years ago, thousands of ordinary young men and women just like you did something extraordinary: they put the country ahead of themselves by taking to the streets to protest the injustices they were facing. They did so despite being met by heavily armed police, racist slurs, roaring police armored vehicles called Casspirs, tear gas assaults and live ammunition that killed 174 and injured 4000 of them.

Whilst taking decades to materialize, the sacrifices these ordinary young men and women made that day on 16 June 1976 were not in vain and helped pave the road to change, shifting our country’s narrative and destiny.

I would like you to ask you to remember the last part of that sentence: whilst taking decades to materialize, their sacrifices were not in vain and helped pave the road to change, shifting our narrative and destiny Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). May this be your ideal when facing any of the profound challenges you are dealing with on a daily basis, of which I know there are more than I can possibly identify.

Take unemployment. Currently, 30% of 16 to 24-year-olds and 46% of 25 to 34-year-olds in this country are not working, nor in any form of education and training.  I encourage you: Do not give up now. Pray for light and make your discernment about opportunities and options. Consult your mentors, spiritual counsellors and life coaches to get more assistance. You can move from being a job-seeker to being a job-creator. I would like to remind our government that coordinated multi-stakeholder interventions are needed to empower young people through various skills training options that would equip them with the basic skills required to enter the labour market, whether this means bridging numeracy and literacy gaps, or equipping them with higher-level technical skills. Try, if you can, to acquire the necessary skills you need, to be employable.

To our students, both in High School and tertiary institutions. I feel your pain. I know that most of you are disillusioned. COVID-19 came unexpectedly and derailed your plans and interrupted your studies. This is not a time to give into depression and discouragement. The youth of 1976 went through a similar experience. Their studies were interrupted, schools and universities were closed and many had to jump our borders and go into exile. Those who stayed behind never gave up. They resumed their studies and are leaders today. You will catch up. Remain focused. This is a temporary set-back.

 Your experience as a young person in South Africa, is one of joy and success on one hand but also of pain and misery on the other hand.  We celebrate successful youths of our country, in politics, industry, mining, business, academics, arts and sports, agriculture, etc. You come face to face with socio-economic ills of our country, crime, domestic and gender-based violence, health issues, COVID-19 pandemic, and many others. Allow me to comment on two of these challenges.

In the face of Gender-Based Violence, I say that you can be an ambassador of change. Educate your peers about this scourge. Appeal to their consciences to see the evil of violence and the devastating effect it has on families and on the society at large. The youth of 1976 and the 80’s formed groups of “Comrades”. They conscientized other youths about the evils of apartheid. They mobilized communities through projects like ‘consumer boycots’, ‘black Christmas’ and marches against police brutality and the State of Emergency. This is the time for you to mobilise other young people to fight the scourge of gender-based violence and tell yourself that you will always respect the rights of others and the dignity of human life. Speak and act for the rights of women.

As for COVID-19, let us accept that it is here. It is a pandemic and we have to face it boldly. The contagious virus will infect many among us, even in your family. It has already affected all of us. It will take the lives of many of our loved ones. What you can do is to ensure that you do not get infected and that you do not infect anyone. Wash your hands, sanitize, put on your mask and keep social distancing. Talk to your peers about the serious nature of this pandemic, we must fight ignorance. Give hope to those who are afraid, those who have lost loved ones and those who are infected. Once you are infected, it is not the end, you can get well again. Many have recovered from it. Pray and trust in God during these difficult times.

Trusting in God, I believe you can bring about the change you want in your life and in our society.  .

ISAIAH 40:31, we are given excellent instruction. ‘But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.’

Eagles are mentioned in the Bible 32 times. The eagle is like no other bird. It is regal; majestic; and powerful. The average eagle weighs in somewhere between 20 – 35 pounds, and eagles have been known to carry 100-pound animals for more than a mile. Their wings are the strongest of all birds. They come from a family called falcons, which consist of condors, hawks, and eagles. And even in this family of birds, the eagle distinguishes himself from all others because of its spirit. An Eagle has a different honour, a different heritage, and a different habitant.

Believe that you can fly, young South African. Hold to your vision.   Be ready to sacrifice for your success. Without pain, you will not gain. Many of us want success or change, but without the sacrifice, handwork, disappointments and heartbreak that comes with it. We can only grow if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone. The thorns or pain in life are there to tell us that it is time to spread you wings and achieve your goals.  You must be persistent: Never forget, never lose hope, never lose sight of the goal. Let the words of R. Kelly be your words during this time of the pandemic. Believe that in spite of all the challenges before us and the pain of our world, we can fly!

“I Believe I Can Fly”
I used to think that I could not go on
And life was nothing but an awful song
But now I know the meaning of true love
I’m leaning on the everlasting arms
If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there’s nothing to it


I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly

 See I was on the verge of breaking down
Sometimes silence can seem so loud
There are miracles in life I must achieve
But first I know it starts inside of me, oh
If I can see it, then I can be it
If I just believe it, there’s nothing to it


Hey, cause I believe in me, oh
If I can see it, then I can do it (I can do it)
If I just believe it, there’s nothing to it


Hey, if I just spread my wings
I can fly
I can fly
I can fly, hey
If I just spread my wings
I can fly-eye-eye-eye
Hum, fly-eye-eye

For more information, contact  Bishop Victor Phalana,  +27 82 470 7151

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