This month is a celebration of our humanity, and also of diversity as the Philippines hosts the international youth festival – Genfest in its 11th edition from July 6-8 in Metro Manila. In 2012, it was held in Budapest, Hungary with the theme “Let’s Bridge,” as Hungary is known for its famous bridges like the Arpad Bridge which connects Buda and Pest across the Danube River. That event saw more than 12,000 youths from different parts of the globe coming together. The theme of the last Genfest was about connecting, like bridges, different cultures, nations and peoples in order to celebrate humanity’s being one family. In Budapest, the United World Project with its United World Watch and Fragments of Fraternity, was born, a project aimed at monitoring initiatives by peoples and organizations that work for universal brotherhood, peace and the common good.

In the Philippines, a major project that will be launched is Hands for Humanity, where young people during the Genfest in Manila, simultaneously with many other young people around the world, will offer their services to the “marginalized” of society, particularly the poor and those in social institutions like orphanages, and rehabilitation centers. There will also be projects to take care of the environment like the clean-up of beaches, and the planting of mangroves and other trees.

This is to concretize the very theme of Genfest 2018: Beyond All Borders. Hands for Humanity is a positive initiative of young people in response to Pope Francis’ exhortation to “go out to the peripheries,” and to that of St. John Paul II’s encouragement in his famous letter in 1985 (Letter to the Youth, an Apostolic Letter on the occasion of the International Youth Year) – to continuously search for truth deep down in their hearts, in their conscience, regardless of their faiths, beliefs, and convictions.

For deep down, as John Paul II expressed in that letter, there is a law inscribed in one’s conscience that tells them to “do unto others what you would like others to do to you.” This very truth, if lived, liberates and fulfills our deepest aspiration.

John Paul II also described the youth as a treasure, a gift, and as people in search of truth. We only hope that the young people who will attend the Genfest and those participating worldwide in their respective countries will also discover their being a treasure and a gift, and the joy and freedom in finding the Truth that will really set them free…

In the words of John Paul II, “To be truly free means to use one’s own freedom for what is a true good, to be truly free means to be a person of upright conscience, to be responsible, to be a person “for others.” Chiara Lubich once said: “… freedom is to tend only to what is good and not just to do what we want. Doing only what we want or desire makes us slaves of our own needs!”

Our wish is that, through this Genfest, young people may be helped to know that “essential truth” concerning humanity, that every human being will find true fulfillment through a sincere gift of oneself (cf. Gaudium et Spes 24).

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