But their specific place in the Movement began to emerge in 1967 when Chiara Lubich launched her motto: “Youths of the world, unite!” that laid the groundwork for the youth movements of the Focolare: the Gen Movement in 1968 and Youth for a United World in 1985.
Young people between the ages of 17 and 30, scattered across five continents, of different ethnicities, nationalities and cultures have been responding to her call up to the present day. They belong to various Christian denominations, different religions, or do not profess a religious belief, but they all are united by the desire to build a more united world: to make humankind more and more into a single family, where the personal identity of every individual is honored.
They strive in many ways to build universal brotherhood, to heal the divisions that exist within families, between generations, between different social groups, etc.
They are engaged in international campaigns in support of peace and fraternity in local and global public events, such as Genfest, which give testimony, that it is possible to live as brothers and sisters. They are also engaged in simple gestures of solidarity and dialogue with those close to them on a daily basis: the needy and marginalized, acquaintances and family. In each of these neighbors they try to see a brother or a sister to welcome.
Their way of living has given rise to many types of activities – from small projects in response to emergency situations, such as helping people in nations that have been affected by natural disaster or war, to the numerous seeds of brotherhood, wherein young people are engaged in on-going local projects in favour of the most needy, like street children and the homeless, the elderly and the abandoned, prisoners and immigrants – everything that their imaginations can come up with to help in healing the wounds of the society in which they live.
They also involve other institutions in their work, especially during United World Week, a week during which all the Youth for a United World intensify their activity in order to make an impact on public opinion in their countries and to give witness that you can live to build a united world, making humanity more and more into a family. The United World Week takes place annually since 1996. It proposes to cities and institutions the promotion of peace and unity at every level. Though promoted by young people, it is open to any person animated by the same principles and objectives.
This cultural trend gradually penetrates into the world of youth, who are called to face the numerous challenges brought by relativism and individualism.
The Youth for a United World do not live for brotherhood only through social projects, but also in their own personal lives.
Those who are Christian among them find, in their daily lives, an opportunity to consolidate the choice of Jesus as their model and the Gospel as their code of life. Those who belong to other religions welcome the ideal of a united world, finding continual encouragement by faithfully reflecting the doctrines of their faiths in their personal lives. Those young people with non-religious convictions follow the golden rule, which invites them to do to others as we would like done to us, and they highlight the absolute value of the human person.
They are aware that the unity they believe in and live for is not a mere human project, but the plan of God for humanity: “That all may be one” (John 17:21).
Secretariat of Youth for a United World
A significant milestone in the story of the Youth for a United World is the Genfest, a major international gathering that has accompanied the birth and development of this movement and shown to the world the existence of thousands of young people from many places, who are living for universal brotherhood.
1973 – Loppiano (Florence) 8,000 youths gather for the first Genfest.
1975 – In Rome, Italy, the entire Palaeur Stadium, is welcomed and blessed by Paolo VI.
Since then the Genfest becomes a regular event for youths, every 5 years.
1980 – In the midst of the Cold War, 40, 000 youths gather at Flaminio Stadium in Rome, Italy to bear witness that a united world is possible.
1985 – The Youth for a United World Movement, which had been foreseen by Chiara Lubich already in 1983, is officially born at the Palaeur Stadium in Rome, Italy.
1990 – At long last, youths from Eastern Europe are also present, following the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. And they are welcomed by the one who contributed so much to its falling: John Paul II.
1995 – The Genfest can be watched worldwide through satellite links and the internet.
2000 – The Genfest becomes an event of the World Youth Day in Rome and the occasion for sharing the witness of holiness given by many Youth for Unity who have already departed for Heaven, first among them, Chiara “Luce” Badano, who was proclaimed Blessed on 25 September 2010.
2012 – Budapest, the “city of bridges” has become the ideal theatre for today’s long awaited event, the 2012 edition of Genfest.A hundred and four nations from five continents were represented including a group of 250 young people from the Middle East. There were many Christians from different Churches and around 100 from other religions together with a constant presence of youths with no religious affiliation.
The main animators of Youth for a United World are the ‘Gen’ (new generation) that is, young people who are radically committed to the spirituality of unity.