A marching band reflecting Filipino hospitality festively welcomed the 1,000 delegates from 55 countries to the Center for Community Transformation (CCT) in Tagaytay City near Mariapolis Peace, the little town of the Focolare Movement in the Philippines. Fr. Chun Boc Tay and Nar Plaras, Co-directors of Mariapolis Peace addressed the delegates: “After the beautiful experience of the historic Genfest, we are here with one common goal: to continue our journey together, making a profound experience of going beyond all borders so as to transform all of humanity into a family. Let us not waste time: instead let’s take advantage of each moment to build new relationships of unity, rooted in love, respect and openness to one another.”
An energetic opening number was presented by the youths of Mariapolis Peace highlighting the cultural diversity that characterizes the little town, followed by an interesting video presenting Mariapolis Peace with its history and activities for dialogue and universal brotherhood. There were many occasions for people to get to know each other and to deepen relationships struck up during the Genfest, surrounded by beautiful scenery, a resplendent nature and cool climate of Tagaytay.
From Life Directions to Social Renewal
The Post Genfest offered participants 7 parallel workshops:
1.Global Citizenship: Education to Peace Amidst the Challenges of Going Against the Current;
2. Life Directions: Open Your Heart;
3. Wired for Unity: Social Media Beyond Borders;
4. Religions in Harmony: Inter-religious Dialogue;
5. Ecology: One Earth: Re-imagining Environmental Stewardship;
6. Economy of Communion: Changing the Rules of the Game, and
7. Reciprocity: Framework for Social Renewal.
The workshops were facilitated by experts coming from different parts of the world. Each workshop provided tools so that the international participants could implement the ideal of a more united world. These workshops aimed at facilitating a platform for the continuation of the reality of the Genfest and to go in-depth on the themes that were tackled in Manila.
Some workshops have established a Facebook page for their participants to continue the experience and communicate with each other about the ongoing results of putting this in practice worldwide! There was very positive feedback on the workshops which were quite interactive.
Ray Asprer, Focolare Councilor for North America who resides now in the Focolare’s center in Rome said, “The focus and the fellowship during the Post-Genfest in a program conducted by the youth themselves, helped the 1000+ youth participants become engaged via relevant workshops that challenged their self-awareness and sensibilities during the day, while the evening programs fostered reciprocal appreciation through modern as well as traditional cultural numbers from various zones.”
Open Your Heart
One of the seven workshops which had the greatest number of participants was on “Life Directions,” a program of discernment conducted by the Center of Focolarino/as in Rome, Italy. As the organizers recounted, “the preparation 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 embarked on by all with commitment, responsibility and creativity.” “After our arrival in Tagaytay and getting to know each other personally, we realized the great expectations from everyone.
The numbers of participants who signed up for the workshop were also quite high: out of the 1,000 enrollees in the seven workshops, 250 had chosen ‘Life Directions,’ and they came from various countries, speaking 16 languages.” The program, which evolved in a light and gradual way towards ever deeper issues where concrete experiences were the main feature, was prepared by the young people themselves, and the thread focused on a “daily motto: a thought to be put into practice during the day. “The first day opened with “Open your heart”: an invitation to open up one’s heart to true happiness, trying to remove what could be an impediment to living those present moments intensely.
“In those four days – several adults observed – we saw youths thirsting for a relationship with God, in a profound quest, with simplicity and serenity. We felt that something new had come about: an experience of light that opened up a new path of dialogue with the youth about the calling to a radical vocation.” Some of those youths 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 some ideas that I am bringing home with me.” “The youths who spoke about their choice to follow God in a total way gave me the courage to make choices only out of love.” “For me it was important to understand how to answer the call: understand (that God loves me), listen (to the voice within) and decide (to follow Jesus). I am so happy about this experience.”
Interreligious Dialogue to Economy of Communion
Keynote talks were given each day before the participants proceeded to their respective workshops. Roberto Catalano and Rita Massoulem of the Focolare Center for Interreligious Dialogue highlighted dialogue as our style of life in a fast changing world and in the context of multi-cultural societies and a globalized world.
A moving keynote talk came from Lawrence Chong, CEO of Consulus Consultant firm in Singapore, and an advocate of the Economy of Communion in Freedom project. He encouraged everyone saying:
“There will be many moments that darkness will seize you, even your friends whom you admire in the work of unity might have abandoned the cause, you might even be criticized, you might even be scandalized. But the question is, will you continue to go ahead for the united world? Again think of your moment of 2018, think of the poor and continue to follow your path to make a difference. Every one of you will be called to do something, small or big does not matter. Every effort counts so long as you do it out of love. Your generation can be the generation that goes beyond these walls and comes up with solutions that make poverty history.”
Every evening showcased the cultural presentations of the various countries. It was truly an explosion of joy and celebration! From Africa to Germany, France to Fiji, India and Pakistan to Switzerland, the Philippines to the countries of East Asia – colorful dances, songs, and games all contributed to helping participants get to know each other’s countries deeper and going beyond the borders of language, customs, and beliefs.
There were also young people with different religious and cultural backgrounds like Saurabh from India, a joyful and optimistic young man coming from a community involved in social activity in India. He shared his views about building a united world within the context of a globalized world influenced by technology, and how to overcome the physical and linguistic barriers. For Saurabh, a united world, is possible and can be realized if one is willing to open up oneself, to let go of oneself and to communicate with every person truly and honestly. “Selfless sharing can bring all of us connected together as one,” he added.
The Missing Link
On the final day, Secretary-General of the Philippine National Commission to UNESCO, Lila Shahani gave an inspiring talk which synthesized and summarized the five day event. The fruits of the five-day event had been presented to her. She said “… we in the United Nations talk of peace. We never talk about love. And you talk about love. That is what I realized today while listening to you. In a way, it is the missing link…” The program ended with the announcement that the next Genfest will be held in Brazil after 6 years!
Jose Aranas and Ting Nolasco