From Budapest to the World

Day 2 of Genfest was held in the Budapest Sports Arena with talks, presentations, music and dance, movement and colour all representing the metaphor of building bridges. The “Let’s bridge” hand sign was continually shared, and acquired an even deeper meaning by the end of the day.

The first phase in building bridges is to make a plan. Bassem from Egypt told of the conflicts following the events in Tahrir Square. There was talk of social exclusion, as was highlighted by the experience of Plinio in Brazil. There was talk of protesting and violence calling for revenge. . . or for other ways of facing the problems of today’s world.

Get your hands dirty digging through the mud is the next phase. The young people from Thailand took these words quite literally, telling how they went out to help victims of the flood that had devastated their country. This commitment involves reaching out personally to people who are in need. Ricardo from Chile and the young people from Indonesia and Sweden told the same story under different circumstances.

Lay the foundations. Then it was time to talk about laying the foundations. Here the young people were given the opportunity to relive the experience of Chiara Lubich, through a theatrical monologue that included her words at the United Nations. The message was clear: a choice of God who is Love that stirs us to love others. The Golden Rule expressed by the Christian Scriptures: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt. 7:12). And this expressed in different ways by the sacred texts of the other Great Religions. It was confirmed by the experience of some Christian and Hindu youths from India, by a young married couple from Switzerland and by Nacho, a young Argentinian who left behind a promising career in football in order to dedicate his life to the service of others. These were courageous choices, often against the current, but always bringing the fullness of life. . .

The completion of the bridge is the next phase. This is an image of the unity that flows through daily situations in life. It involves the cornerstone that keeps the bridge’s arch from collapsing: loving even when it is painful. This was illustrated by some young Italians who work at a centre that offers help to illegal immigrants. Their presentation also had photos and voice recordings of their friends. Adhelard and Ariane shared from Burundi about their work in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Bujumbura. And Kaye from the Philippines shared her experience of separation in the family. They were stories that have not yet had a happy outcome, continuing to be lived with love that allowed those involved to experience a fullness of life even in sorrowful situations such as these. Thus solid foundations are laid that allow safe crossing, the final phase of this metaphorical process. A bridge allows access to many roads. Issa, a Christian from Nazareth and Noura, a Muslim from Jerusalem know this is true. They meet regularly, together with other Christian, Muslim and Jewish youths to know one another more and to pray for peace.

The joy was quite great among the 12,000 youths they flowed out of the Sport Arena in the evening, on a symbolic march towards the Chain Bridge. Thirty seconds of silence before the go-ahead was given to the biggest international flashmob in history. Someone shouted “Go!” and the young people exchanged the colourful scarfs on which they had each written a phrase along with their name. It was a moment of joyful and festive confusion. Then there was another shout: “Stop!” and they were allowed to unfold the scarfs and discover: “the gift that God wanted to give me,” as one tearful youth said after reading the message: “God loves you immensely.” “Today we begin to live for peace,” another said. “Let’s bridge” was written in all the languages. “The bracelet, the sign of our pact, I put on my wrist not to be a conformist, but because it makes me commit,” said one young man.

20120902-11Looking into their faces, it was really possible to believe. Perhaps Budapest will be able to write in its history about this unusual and non-violent revolution that has been reborn from here.

The final morning, 2 September was spent in St Stephen’s Square, at the very heart of the city where there was the Holy Mass for the Catholic young people. Youths from other Churches celebrated their services in other locations around the city and the 160 Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu youth also found a place prepared for each of them. At the conclusion they all gathered together for a moment of silence and recollection for peace: the Time-Out.

The next appointment will be in Rio de Janeiro. Two Brazilian young people went on stage and invited everyone to World Youth Day 2013 in their country. Everyone left committed to building fraternal relationships among groups and individuals in the 104 countries from which they came. From Budapest to the world!

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