Ukraine, young people and social media
A guest blog from Melanie Lacy, Executive Director of Growing Young Disciples
There’s a very 2022 phenomenon going on at the moment with regards to the invasion of Ukraine. Our young people are understanding the situation through the lens of social media. Even the briefest dip into the TikTok sea will facilitate encounters with a whole range of videos relating to the war in Ukraine. There’s satire & memes, there’s activism & instruction, there’s brutality, death and destruction. From appeals to ‘Vladdy daddy’ to stop the invasion, through to ‘how-to guides’ for Molotov Cocktails. It’s all there on social media.
And in this case there are no filters!
Tragically there are very, very graphic images showing dismembered corpses, civilian as well as military personnel, all easily accessible online. So not only are the young people witnessing a country being devastated and literally blown apart, they are seeing human bodies shattered and destroyed by the realities of war.
The details and drama are uploaded almost instantly with little, if any, responsible moderation of posts, pictures or videos. It’s down to each individual young person to discern what’s accurate reporting, or real footage - a responsibility that is heavy and hard.
For what it’s worth I think we probably should pause our planned programmes to address the current crisis with our young people or at least spend some time chatting to them about it. This is where the SO WHAT of the gospel really matters, what difference does believing in the God of the Bible make, when wars & rumours of war come.
We know that Gen Z are particularly concerned with their personal safety & security, and having experienced the terror of a global pandemic they now face the threat of war. The fragility and instability of the world is increasingly apparent. We must endeavour to help them understand what it means to find refuge and strength in the Lord. What vivid illustrations we have of people seeking refuge in various ways and places at the moment, and yet we must point them not to a place of safety and security, but to a person of safety and eternal security.
Stronghold, fortress, strength, shelter, hiding place, safety, protector, deliverer, shield, rampart, tower - these are just some of the ways God is described in scripture. More than just descriptions, it’s what he promises to be for those who are his, through the saving blood of Christ.
What else can we say as we reflect on the invasion of Ukraine?
We can show the beauty of Ukrainian believers trusting powerfully in their Saviour, in the midst of despair.
We can speak of the unity and generosity that has come through people, communities and nations seeking to care and provide for the afflicted. It’s humanity bearing the image of God, as they protect, serve, and seek to save.
We can rejoice in the abundant good that digital technologies do facilitate - for example allowing families who’ve been separated to remain in contact and appeals of various kinds to go out quickly and return with great effect. God’s common grace shown in technology.
We can help our young people to think carefully about how they classify people, avoiding the them and us or the goodies and baddies, but rather encouraging them to see image bearers and to understand the value and dignity that comes with that status. Perhaps that can most significantly be shown in relation to the Russian people, many of whom are victims too in this war.
We can mourn together the state of our sin ravaged world, acknowledging that it is in many ways awful, broken, and filled with suffering.
We can help the young people wrestle with understanding what it means to trust in a sovereign and good God, who remains fully in control when everything about the current situation looks like nobody’s in control... and what’s more, if there is the slight chance that somebody or something is at work, they certainly don’t appear to be good. We need to think very carefully about how to communicate this, in a way that’s not platitudinal or trite.
Some other stuff that’s emerging from young people on social media in relation to the invasion in Ukraine:
The question is war ever just?
Some very real concerns of racism, arising from horrifying decisions being made in Ukraine, about who can access travel to get to safety.
Questions about feminism; young feminists want to know where all the women are, in relation to the conscription of men in Ukraine. Why are feminists tolerating only men being conscripted if they believe women and men are equal?
Just some thoughts…..
Executive Director of Growing Young Disciples
Photo by Sima Ghaffarzadeh from Pixels
Find out more about teaching young people in Dave's book: 'Raising the Bar: Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry'. Buy the book here.