The May 1st gathering was the Italian edition of Genfest 2018 where 3,700 young people took part in a one-day celebration of fraternity with reporting on projects, social action, personal experiences in which people came face to face with the drama and pain of humanity, as in the case of George and Michael who left everyone breathless with their description of what they had been experiencing for years in Syria. “My family is Christian and we refuse to kill or carry weapons,” says George, a young Syrian from Homs.
He continued, “We’ve seen many people die,” says George. “For a period of time, I even had to carry a knife to protect myself, to defend myself in case of danger. Years of hatred, death and loss of dignity had emptied my heart and I began to think that love didn’t exist. Only the Mariapolis (several days spent living in the light of the Gospel at the annual gathering of the Focolare) was able to remove this thought from my mind. After that Mariapolis, I never carried a knife again and decided to start responding to hatred with love.” His final appeal to the young people was strongly welcomed: “Don’t complain about your life. It’s beautiful, you just don’t realize it.”
We’re in Loppiano, the Focolare international town near Florence, Italy where hundreds of young people from all over the country have gathered for a meeting that includes testimonies, sharing and much festivity. This year the event was held in anticipation of the much larger international Genfest, which will be held in Manila, Philippines.
The conducting thread of the event, entitled “Beyond Me,” expressed the desire to go beyond one’s limits and boundaries in order to bring about not just a personal but a social change as well. Roberto Spuri and Elena Sofia Ferri bore witness to this as they shared about the earthquake in Central Italy; Alessio Lanaloni and Maria Chiara Cefaloni, recounted their efforts for a disarmed economy; and Alessandra Leanza, with the experience of volunteering to work with Rom children in Sardinia.
Also present were Marco Voleri, the internationally renowned tenor and founder of “Sintomi di Felicità,” an association which promotes public awareness of multiple sclerosis; Simone Barlaam, para-Olympic swimming champion at the Mexican world games. Michele Tranzuilli, author of the book “Una buona idea” and promoter of the bridge with Africa YouAid, and Sara Fabris, a painter.
All the stories shared at Genfest Italy were connected to concrete experiences: an association, or a social project, which anyone could “adopt” for the coming year. This was the call to action launched at the end of the event, with an invitation to each young person to choose a project and replicate it everywhere else. To facilitate their work, the associations actively engaged in the cities of Italy, posted links on the United World Project website, according to their region.
Genfest Italy concluded with a “flying” city that was depicted in the final choreography based on a meditation by Chiara Lubich, “One City Is Not Enough”: “With God, one city is too little. He made the stars, and guides the centuries to their destiny. With him we can aim farther, at everybody’s country, at the entire world. …at the end of life, let us not have to be sorry for having loved too little.”