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The International Union of Guides and Scouts of Europe answered to the questionnaire of the Holy See in view of the Youth Synod 2018!

Our Union was able to give an expert perspective especially on the European youth, answering to the following questions:

  1. What assistance is offered to young people to look to the future with confidence and hope, beginning with the richness of Christian roots of Europe?

For our movement, the concept of Europe is always present. Our very name “Guides and Scouts of Europe” reminds us permanently of it. In point 1.2.2 of our Federal Statute, in the chapter dedicated to the purposes of our Federation, we read: “Beyond country borders, the Union wants to create a true community of Christian life for the youth of Europe’s various countries, and thereby to raise their awareness of belonging to a European community while developing, at the same time, a healthy culture of all national values, which are the diverse expressions of our common heritage.”

            To accomplish this mission, we carry out any type of international activity and gathering whose aim is the meeting between persons of different countries and cultures. We are convinced that peoples unite through the persons who form them. We have countless testimonies coming from more than 60 years during which boys and girls learned to respect and to love a country by knowing persons who live in it, concrete faces who incarnate that country.

            As an image of this fraternity across the borders, and to celebrate the Union’s 60th anniversary, a symbol of unity among us as travelled around all the countries of our scout Union. In this video, you can see how we try to maintain the spirit of our founders.

            Germany, France, Ukraine, Russia… are no longer just territories that we can identify on a map, but these are the countries where my siblings Martin, Domitille, Dimitri, Yovana… live, brothers and sisters with whom I share the scout ideal.

Over the last years, we have gathered more than 50,000 young people in all kinds of meetings organized by our Federation itself (Eurojam, Euromoot…) as well as throughout our collaboration in the organisation of the World Youth Days etc. These young people had the opportunity to meet each other personally, to help in the construction of one single “community of faith, prayer and action, the various national associations of the European Guides and Scouts, the fundamental objective of which is to educate young people by using Baden Powell’s traditional scouting methods, based on the Christian values at the roots of our common European civilisation[1].

            As leaders of our movement, our fundamental reference text on our vision of Europe is the speech of Saint John Paul II given to the world in Santiago de Compostela in 1982. It is an essential text for our movement: “This is why I, John Paul, son of the Polish nation which has always considered itself as European, for its origins, traditions, culture and vital relationships: Slavic among the Latin and Latin among the Slavs; I, successor of Peter on the Roman See, a See that Jesus Christ wanted to settle in Europe and that He loves for its effort to spread out Christianity throughout the whole world. I, Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the universal Church, from Santiago, I give out a shout full of love to you: Come back and rediscover yourself. Be yourself. Discover your origins. Enliven your roots. Live again those authentic roots, which make your history glorious and your presence on the other continents beneficial. Rebuild your spiritual unity, in a climate of full respect towards the other religions and the genuine liberties. Give to Cesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Don’t be proud of your conquests to the point of forgetting their possible negative consequences. Don’t be depressed by the quantitative loss of your greatness in the world or by the social and cultural crises that affect you nowadays. You can still be a lighthouse of civilization and impetus of progress for the world. The other continents are looking at you and are also waiting from you for the same answer that Saint James gave to Jesus: “I can”.”

  1. Young people often feel side-lined and excluded in the political, economic and social surroundings in which they live. In what way do you take into consideration the feeling to protest so that it can be transformed into participation and collaboration?

Scouting is also known as “school of citizenship through woodcraft”. This means that we try to teach our scouts to be civic persons, which also means active agents within the civil society. As educational movement, the Guides and Scouts of Europe do not mistake citizenship for politics and, even less, political parties.

Scouting is an educational method that takes young people very seriously. No person, and even less a young person, being in a crucial moment of his growth, should ever feel discarded, used, reified.

Scouting considers the youth in the best possible way. From its very origin, the youth is protagonist. Baden-Powell founded the scout movement based on his experiences with the young men who served as messengers during the siege of Mafeking, entering and leaving the besieged city. This is the origin of scouting.

The scout pedagogy is an active pedagogy where the youth is protagonist of his own formation. Baden-Powell told his young people: “Paddle Your Own Canoe”. Scouting offers the young people a way of continuous progression, of permanent improvement, where role of the responsible adults is “only” to show the way they must take.

In a very particular way, the Scouts of Europe integrate young people in the game, which is scouting, in the decision that are made through the pedagogy of the council. Starting from the age of 8, the cubs (name of the scouts in this age) have a meeting called “council rock” at each activity. In this meeting, all the children express their opinion freely, starting with the most timid and finishing with the responsible adults. They learn to express themselves, to feel listened to and to listen to the others.

In each of the stages of scout life, there is at least one council that has the same mission. The adolescents (between the age of 12 and 16) participate in the “patrol council”. In this council, there are no adults. Among the patrol (a small group of boys or girls between 12 and 16), they express themselves, listen to each other, think and come to agreements. These agreements are transmitted to the adult leaders by the patrol leader, a boy (or a girl, if it is a girl patron) between 14 and 16 who is responsible for the patrol.

The different patrol leaders gather with the responsible adults in another council, called “leaders’ council”. It gathers the responsible adults and the responsible adolescents (patrol leaders) who together lead all the boys in the patrols. In this council, the patrol leaders transmit the opinions and decisions of their boys and together, they take the definite decisions affecting everyone.

Starting from the age of 17, according to the degree of progression and the service, there are different other councils: clan council, group council, district council, mainly among adults.

The pedagogy of the council, essential to involve the young people in their game of scouting, is not to be mixed up with assembly decisions. The children know that they are listened to, that they can and should have an opinion, that they must respect the opinions of the others, but that they finally have to accept the well-founded decisions taken by the leaders, once the different councils have been heard.

The young people who grow up in the scout movement participate in this dynamic in a habitual and permanent way throughout their whole scout life. The different councils are precious pedagogical channels and a huge added value that scouting makes available to young people by listening them and transforming their demands or contributions into proposals and enrichment of the activities in which they participate.

  1. At what levels do relations between generations still work? If they do not function, how can they be renewed?

            The intergenerational relations clearly work in the stages of childhood. In our movement, some associations offer a program starting from the age of 6, for the branch called beavers. Subsequently, all our associations work with children from 8 to 12 years, in the branch called wolf cubs.

            In these stages, the intergenerational relationship still works. Due to the dynamics of the activities carried out in this age, the direct responsible leaders for the children are mostly young people under 25. However, there are no problems in cases where the direct leaders are adults at the age of their parents.

            This relationship between generations (of parents and children) is much more difficult in adolescence. In a natural way, the adolescent needs to assert himself and this detaches him from the relation with his parents. The adolescents have more difficulties if their direct leaders have the age of their parents, so in this age, a small age difference with their leaders is preferable. Teenagers have confidence in 20-year-olds, so 20 to 25 is the ideal age for their direct responsible leaders.

However, there are adults who connect in a special way with teenagers. We can learn from them how to re-establish intergenerational relationships where they do not work. They are adults who enter the world of the adolescent, take their problems seriously, listen to them, take an interest in their hobbies, their series etc. When an adult knows how to put himself in the adolescent’s position, without getting confused with him, giving him space, showing him the path he must take, inviting him to make his journey on his own, without overwhelming him, then he is a magnificent reference for us.

            As a movement, we also have a legacy, in a certain way, that we have received from previous generations and that we must pass on to future generations. Thus, at an associative level, we can talk about intergenerational relationships that we take care of and that we understand as a responsibility towards future generations.

            At the level of our children and teenagers, we teach the importance of traditions, of keeping and transmitting them. For example, in the patrols, traditions are passed and communicated among the boys who enter and the outgrown members leaving the patrol. There are golden books, chronicles, etc. This means that the members of a patrol are related to former and future patrol members. It helps the young persons to understand that not everything that comes from adults, from former generations is far away from them.

[1] Federal Statutes, § 1.2.1

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