Some of South Africa’s young people (SACBC Youth & Young Adult Ministry) 

By Sheila Pires – Johannesburg & English Africa Service – Vatican City

June 16 2020

Tuesday this week, in South Africa, is National Youth Day and the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) Youth Office hosted a virtual World Youth Day celebration.

South Africa’s virtual World Youth Day celebrations was live streamed on the SACBC Youth & Young Adult Ministry Facebook Page, on Tuesday. The event is organised by SACBC in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s youth ministry.

COVID-19, violence against women and Black Lives Matter

Explaining the event, Dominique Yon, assistant to the Youth Chaplain in the Archdiocese of Cape Town said there was no particular theme for the celebration. However, some Bishops were scheduled to speak on topical socio-economic issues such as COVID-19, violence against women and children and on matters connected with Black Lives Matter.

Videos and musicians from across the country

“Youth Day is usually one of the biggest events in our year, and since it is being done digitally, we found no reason why we could not do it nationally and make it an inter-diocesan event. We incorporated videos and musicians from all over the nation. Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town celebrated the Mass. Other Bishops were also involved and shared reflections encouraging and motivating young people,” said Dominique Yon who is also a member of the Vatican’s International Youth Advisory Body. 

South Africa is on COVID-19 level three lockdown with most businesses, schools and churches allowed to operate albeit on a limited basis.

Youth Day commemorates the Soweto Uprising

16 June, each year, is a public holiday in South Africa. The day has roots in the Soweto Uprising of 16 June 1976.

It is a day set apart to recognise the courage of protesters in Soweto, led mainly by high school students who demonstrated against the South African apartheid regime’s compulsory introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools.

The Apartheid Police reacted to the protests with a brutal crackdown setting-off a wave of protests and violent conflicts across South Africa. Twenty-three students were shot at by the Police, on the day. In all the death toll is generally given as 176.