By Vatican News staff writer
“Education is always an act of hope that, from the present, looks to the future,” said Pope Francis in the opening words of his video message to a Vatican Youth Symposium that sees the launch of a collaboration between Mission 4.7 and the Global Pact for Education.
Mission 4.7 (which gets its name from SDG Target 4.7, focussing on knowledge and education) brings together leaders from government, academia, civil society, and business to accelerate the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development around the world and to highlight the critical importance of education in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The annual Vatican Youth Symposium, taking place on 16-17 December in a virtual format at the Casina Pio IV, is focusing on the need to promote a new kind of education, “one that will overcome the current globalization of indifference and the culture of waste.”
The consequences of the pandemic on education
Noting that 2020 has been an extraordinary year of suffering due to COVID-19 - which has caused forced isolation and exclusion, spiritual anguish and many deaths - in his message the Pope said the pandemic has also caused an unprecedented educational crisis.
“More than a billion children have faced disruptions to their education. Hundreds of millions of children have been left behind in opportunities for social and cognitive development. And in many places, the biological, psychological and economic crises have been aggravated by the political and social crises that accompany them,” he said.
The Pope thanked participants at the Symposium for coming together in an act of hope that counters the “impulses of hatred, division and ignorance,” realities that can be overcome thanks to a “new wave of educational opportunities based on social justice and mutual love”: the new Global Compact for Education that was launched in October.
Above all, he said, “I thank you for coming together today to grow in our shared hopes and plans for a new education that promotes, 'the transcendence of the human person, integral and sustainable human development, intercultural and religious dialogue, the safeguarding of the planet, meetings for peace and openness to God.'”
Role and responsibility of the UN
Pope Francis also noted that the role and the contribution of the United Nations offer a unique opportunity for the world's governments and civil society to unite in hope and action for a new kind of new education.
He quoted St. Paul VI's 1965 message of appreciation to the United Nations, which reads: “Gentlemen, you have accomplished and are now in the course of accomplishing a great work: you are teaching men peace. The United Nations is the great school where people get this education."
And he recalled the Constitution adopted by UNESCO in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. In its Preamble, the Constitution recognizes that "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” And, he continued, seventy-five years ago, the founders of UNESCO called for "full and equal opportunities for education for all, in the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth and in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge ... so that peoples may gain greater understanding of one another and acquire a truer and more perfect knowledge of each other's lives."
In our time, Pope Francis said, when the pact for global education has broken down, “I am pleased to see that governments have recommitted themselves to putting these ideas into practice by adopting Agenda 2030 and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, in synergy with the Global Compact on Education.”
He highlighted the fact that at the heart of the SDGs is the recognition that quality education for all is a necessary foundation for protecting our common home and fostering human fraternity.
'Do not forget the elderly'
The Pope concluded by expressing his support for the collaboration between The Global Compact for Education and Mission 4.7, which he said will work together “for the civilization of love, beauty and unity.” And, he said: “Do not forget the elderly and the grandparents who are the bearers of the most decisive human values.”