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Out of Darkness, Towards the Light

The successful rescue operation of 12 boys and their coach from a cave in Thailand is an excellent allegory of what education is all about – lead the person out of darkness into the light of knowledge.

The story of the Thai-led international rescue team that in July freed 12 boys and their coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand captivated many people around the world. It took a long time and meticulous planning to be able to take all the boys out of their isolation. 

Somehow, I thought that this story could be a good metaphor for education. Education is par excellence a “one by one” process through which the best within a person, with its own characteristics, is “taken out” from his inner self by a more experienced person, the teacher, who is available to enter into the inner darkness of the students and lead them to light. 

Interestingly enough, during the Thai-cave rescue operation, the expertise of foreign amateur divers was essential to bring the boys to safety: a point which underlines the usefulness of different learning methods and therefore of different “guiding” principles in order to face critical moments of life.

I had this story in mind one day when I had two different conversations about education. The first was about the fact that in some places, notably in some areas in China, minors and youth are prohibited to attend religious services and activities. Many states actually want to standardize everybody’s thinking so that the youth may become more controllable. True education instead always puts the good of the single person in all his aspects (even the religious one) above structures and ideologies, as Jesus’ showed in His life. 

The second conversation, on the opposite side of the spectrum, was about the fact that in modern and free societies, Catholic parents (especially in mixed marriages) more and more prefer not to have their children baptized by “giving” them the freedom to choose their religion once they become adults, forgetting that in every young person, freedom needs both guiding and nurturing, and this is what religious education actually provides. 

The Church, through different faith-based community experiences, desires only to develop “…a true humanism, which acknowledges that we are made in the image of God, and wants to help us live in a way consonant with that dignity” (Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love, n. 30). 

Based on this foundation, the youth can build their lives with hope and positivity in every situation.

The complex paths of life often lead us in dark tunnels from which we are unable to escape. The Church knows both our darkness but also where the light is: let’s not deprive our youth of guidance. 


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