GenFest / English

GenFest / English

The Genfest is a meeting of youth who want to show the world that universal fraternity, a united world, is an Ideal worth living for. Over the years, the Genfest has become a great festival of ideas, thoughts and actions that inspire thousands of youth to change their life, their future and, finally, the world.

The eleventh edition of the Genfest in Manila (the Philippines) has just come to its end. The 6,000 young people, aged 18 to 30 years, from more than 100 countries worldwide.  Thousands of others participated in the other 23 local editions that are being prepared.  

 

They launched their project: “Pathways for a United World”: ways and means that aim at bringing individuals and peoples together so that they can contribute towards building fraternal relationships in the fields of economy, justice, politics, environment, intercultural and interreligious dialogue.

We chose Asia because six out every ten young people in the world live there” – says Kiara Lauren, who is one of the Youth for a United World, promoters of the event. “Despite its socio-economic problems and differnces, this continent speaks to the world about hope and desire for change. We do not recognize ourselves in this international geo-political context that quite often sacrifices whole peoples for the sake of some élite. We would like individuals and our nations to look beyond their personal, cultural, religious and political boundaries, to meet others and let themselves be enriched by diversity.”

There was 110 forums and workshops on key issues about the construction of open and supportive societies: from urban cleaning techniques and care of the territory, to social enterprise forms, to the management of personal and political conflicts, to the use of social media for peace, and much more.

 

Pre-Genfest

One week before the Genfest, from June 28th to July 5th, more than 400 young people participated in the Pre-Genfest, a series of social activities in 20 different locations in Southeast Asia. The Pre-Genfest is a laboratory of social work for youth who want to have an experience of intercultural exchange and contribute to social change. Participants had the opportunity to roll up their sleeves to work in marginalized neighborhoods, social centers, and to participate in ecological and environmental activities. The Pre-Genfest also provided opportunities to go beyond social borders by visiting orphanages, prisons, and to interact with people from other cultures and religions.

Pre-Genfest in Cuba

Some people were exposed to the peripheries of fast pace city-life of megalopolis such as Hong Kong and Seoul, and others visited rural areas in Masbate, or Pangasinan in the Philippines. Some experienced first-hand interreligious dialogue in cities such as Chiang Mai, Thailand; Medan, Indonesia; and Yangon, Myanmar, and others will participate in ecological activities such as helping harvesting rice in Hanoi, Vietnam; or cleaning up some beaches of Palawan, Philippines, a well-known tourist destination.

Interreligious dialogue was also part of the program. In Coimbatore, India, participants were offered an intercultural and interfaith social experience guided by Gandhi’s motto “be the change you want to see.” 

 

Young UN Ambassadors 

Last April, the United World Project (UWP) selected 25 representatives from all over the world to become ambassadors for the united world. They represent the Youth for a United World (U4UW) and their main task is to work for the official recognition of the United World Week by the United Nations.

 

The ambassadors who came from countries such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and the U.S. – among others – met for the first time during the Genfest 2018. Their role as ambassadors started precisely in Manila by contacting National Commissions of International institutions in the Philippines. On July 5 and 6, they visited the FAO and the UNESCO branches located in Manila to learn about the organizations and begin a collaboration with the Y4UW through New Humanity, the NGO representing Focolare Movement at the United Nations.

 

Hands for Humanity

Hands for Humanity aims to provide participants with experiential activities to enrich the knowledge and experience gained from the preceding workshops and forums. For all the pariticpants, it was an opportunity to embrace the peripheries of our cities by doing concrete deeds and acts of kindness. This event took place simultaneously around Metro Manila and worldwide. There were 11 Hands for Humanity activities that go from social activities on the peripheries, ecology activities on natural environment and intercultural and interreligious exchange.

Other locations included Mumbai, India; Ho Chi Min, Vietnam; Bangkok, Thailand; and different cities in the Philippines such as Baguio, Cebu, Dumaguete, La Union, and Tacloban. The collaboration with organizations such as Bukas Palad, and Façenda da Esperanza in the Philippines, and the Shanti Ashram in India, among others, was fundamental in the preparation of the Pre-Genfest. 

 Operation Sqare Metre 

I come from a country in Central America, El Salvador. It’s a small country, rich in history and natural resources, but afflicted for many years with political instability, injustice and poverty that have produced overwhelming violence and social upheaval, as every neighbour appears as a threat to everyone else. In recent years, the violence has intensified to point of creating a complete lack of mutual trust among the citizens. 

In 2014, I lived for a while with some other young people from the Youth For A United World in a small Focolare town in Argentina, known as Mariapolis Lia.  Everyone in that place tried to live the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.  It made me see how beautiful it would be to create a society where everyone took care of one other. 

Yet, when I went back to El Salvador, I found myself once again facing the internal struggles in my country.  The situation was really bad, more violent if that was even possible.  Every moment was filled with danger both day and night, always risky to leave the house.  You never knew whether or not you’d return home at night.  Because of the situation, my parents and my sister decided to leave.  But, thinking more about what to do, we decided to stay so that we could be a light in that dark place, during such dark times. 

During that period I read an article from the Youth For A United World in the Middle East /Syria, which told of how they decided to stay there in spite of the war in order to be able and willing to help the people wounded in the daily attacks.  Their experiences made me think and strengthened my resolve to stay in El Salvador, to go out and meet the suffering of my own people.
That was how my friends and I decided to launch a campaign that we called: ‘Change Your Own Square Metre’ with the goal of building peace in our local environment. We know that the problem in our country is complex, but we can make a difference if we begin from our own life with the people we meet every day, with our own daily activities.  Personally, for example, I try to help my classmates with their difficult Mathematics Exam or to build positive relations with the neighbors around my house.

All of it had a wider impact on the society as well.  We got others involved in constructing a local park, a pretty place with painted walls.  We launched a campaign to collect books and send them to cities that charge a high fee for renting them in the schools.  Then collaboration was begun with other movements and with institutions that provide food and shelter to the homeless.  Adults helped us in collecting food and allowing us to cook it in their homes.  It was amazing how the food was always enough for everyone to have some!
Perhaps we won’t be up to the task of changing our country all at once, but one square metre at a time we will certainly do it!”

*

One of the seven workshops that were held after GenFest 2018 in Manila. A thousand young people attended to deepen among many others, the themes of Economy, Ecology, Sociology and other choices in life.

Life Directions

What shall I do in life?” was the topic of this workshop, focused on the choices in life, that is, one’s own “Life direction.” The young participants came from various countries, speaking 16 languages. As the organizers recounted, “the construction of this workshop by adults and a group of young people from various parts of the world began last February, with meetings via Skype: a really edifying experience assumed by all with commitment, responsibility and creativity.” 

The exchange sessions in small groups verified what lay in the depths and how many questions and expectations each one had inside.” The questions, which were written, slowly filled the question box, and were the afternoon’s programme, with other interviews of our guests: each underlined the beauty of their own vocation in the perspective of the sole calling to love. 

In these four days – they wrote – we saw youths who were thirsting for a relationship with God, in a profound quest, simplicity and serenity. Some of those present said: “It was exactly what I needed at this point of my life. Living the present moment, opening my doors, and taking radical steps beyond ourselves, are what I am bringing home with me.”

________________________________

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: