Monday, April 13, 2015

"Say No Drugs, Say Yes to Life"

Catholic priest heals the wounds of teen life

 by Joe Leong
SABAH FOCUS: Earlier this month, in conjunction with the national level Anti-Dadah Day, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi made a frightening disclosure that two boys from Sabah aged eight and nine are among the youngest addicts in Malaysia.
The duo from Papar and Keningau had indulged in drugs for a few months before their parents found out and handed them to the cure and care centre of the National Anti-Drugs Agency (AADK). 
“Drug abuse remains a major problem with some of the latest addicts being as young as seven, hooked on drugs since last year. This is certainly worrying,” Zahid said. His concern was being echoed by AADK's Director-General Datuk Suhaimi Abdullah who added, “This is worrying. Here, we are trying to overcome teenage involvement but now we have such young kids.” 
Seeing the many dangers that the young are now facing, a Catholic priest took the initiative to conduct a one-day programme on March 14, aimed to help participants cope with “Modern Wounds in Teens Life”, as the title of the programme suggests.
“One of the biggest problems among the young in Sabah now is on drugs. Teens can easily be influenced,” said Fr Peter Abas, parish priest at Holy Nativity Church, at Terawi, in Penampang, who was the main speaker at the gathering attended by a group of 170 school children aged from 12-17 years from Penampang, Inanam, Tuaran and Papar.
They packed the foyer at the entrance of the church to listen to talks on drugs and alcohol abuse among teens, technology addiction and the positive application of technology for teens. They were also told about the Internet and the dangers arising from information communication technology (ICT).
Fr Peter told Theantdaily that being a mental health counsellor, a lot of clients referred to him were mostly victims of the drug, syabu. 
“I want parents to be aware that their children are easily influenced. My message to the teens gathered here today is this - Don't let syabu hit you but you hit the syabu.
In his talks to teens, he urged them to beware of peer pressure, curiosity of wanting to try, and to make the excuse that they had come from a broken family.
“I tell parents all the time that they need to spend quality time with their children. It is not enough just to give them food and comforts of life at home. What they need more are expressions of love from the parents. That is lacking,” Fr Peter advised.
He said parents have depended too much on the education system to teach their children. “The real education is to start from the parents. This is what I stress whenever I meet them.”
Fr Peter gained his wide knowledge and experience in drug abuse and menace during his several years of stay at the Bronx in New York where he undertook his post graduate studies and stayed on as the priest in charge of a parish there. 
Firstly, he did his master and post master at Fordham University, then a doctorate at University of Rochester, NY, with specialisation in genetic population on the issue of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He stayed on to teach there before returning to Sabah in 2011. 
His Bronx experience has certainly helped him as a counsellor for families having problems related with marriage, children involved with crime and drugs and other social ills.
Rather than use of gentle words and cautious approach as is expected in such religious education sessions for youth, he spoke to the group of teens on Saturday directly and openly about the dangers of pornography, masturbation, and the dangers of how a simple photo of a girl could be doctored into a girl in the nude.
The participants were taught the right and wrong use of the Internet and the social media such as WhatsApp and Facebook. Throughout the day's programme, slogans such as, “Be master of technology, not be a slave of technology” and “Hit the drug out of your life, not let the drug hit you”, repeatedly resounded in the ears of the teens.
It is now left to be seen how these 170 teens would put these aims into practice in their daily school life from here on. The organisers aim to form a core team from the group who could later assist in conducting similar courses elsewhere in Penampang and other parts of the state.
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