By Robin Gomes
Some 6,000 youth from around the world are converging on the Philippine capital, Manila, July 6 to 8, for the 11th edition of Genfest, the international youth festival of the worldwide Focolare Movement.
Founded in Italy in 1943 by the charismatic lay Catholic woman, Chiara Lubich, the Focolare Movement aims at promoting the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood among all people and religions. Today, the movement is active in 194 countries.
Generally held every 6 years, the Genfest is organized by the Youth for a United World (Y4UW), Focolare’s youth wing. Since its inception in Italy in 1973, the Genfest has become an avenue for young people to show that a united world is possible.
Genfest 2018 is the first such rally being held in Asia and outside Europe. The Manila Genfest has at its theme, “Beyond All Borders”, that aims to allow young people to experience crossing cultures and traditions, find best practices, tools, and projects that would help them achieve sustainable change and realize that everyone is a member of one human family. The rally has also a theme song.
Genfest 2018 kicks off on Friday afternoon and will be followed by a cultural night of music festival with inputs from participants from around the world.
Workshops, forums, experience
On Day 2, July 7, the Genfest will hold some 110 simultaneous workshops and forums on a wide variety of topics including politics, the media, economics, culture, sports, ecology and others. The main purpose is to empower young people to think beyond themselves, to overcome borders, and to do acts of kindness and love when they go back to their communities.
In the afternoon, participants will participate in “Hands for Humanity” event, a series of activities of kindness, solidarity, welcome and urban development in Manila. Some of these activities are clean and green drive, time with the deaf, the blind and the elderly, and feeding children.
The day will conclude with testimonies, songs, and artistic presentations.
On the final day, July 8, the Genfest will conclude with a closing Mass to be presided over by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila. Genfest 2018 will conclude with a message by Maria Voce, the President of the Focolare Movement.
A week ahead of the Genfest, June 28th to July 5th, more than 400 young people are participating the Pre-Genfest, a series of social activities in 20 different locations in 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.
Some are being exposed to the peripheries of fast pace city-life of megalopolis such as Hong Kong and Seoul, South Korea and others will visit rural areas in Masbate, or Pangasinan in the Philippines.
In Seoul, Korea, for example, participants are coming to know the background of events that led to the North-South divide.
Some participants are experiencing 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 is also part of the Pre-Genfest. In Coimbatore, India, participants are being offered an intercultural and interfaith social experience guided by Gandhi’s motto “be the change you want to see”. Young people are interacting with indigenous inhabitants of Taipei, Taiwan, and of Aklan, Philippines,
Other locations include Mumbai, India; Ho Chi Min, Vietnam; Bangkok, Thailand; and different cities in the Philippines such as Baguio, Cebu, Dumaguete, La Union, and Tacloban.
Organized by young people for young people, Genfest 2018 is very much on the social media. Those interested in following the 3-day event can updated themselves through the following links:
Live streaming: http://www.y4uw.org/live