Click here to read the original blog posted on the CAFOD ‘Just One World’ blog
Picture the scene: A hot, sticky August afternoon in a beautiful yet crowded Spanish city. You stand surrounded by a near two million strong delegation of young people representing almost every country on Earth. The atmosphere is electrifying; hearing chatters in different languages, watching people from different cultures trying to communicate and people exchanging tokens, badges, bracelets from their native lands.
Here are just a few of the images that have been promised to me when I attend the World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid this coming summer. From August 16–21, 2011, approximately two million young people are expected to descend on the Spanish capital to join each other and Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate our faith together. On the schedule is music, prayer, guest speakers, plays, and so much more, all topped off with a final celebration of Mass on the last day. Personally, I cannot wait to arrive!
I always think that the only way we are going to achieve peace in our world is if we strike up conversations and make friends with people and World Youth Day (WYD) is an ample opportunity to do just that. In January 2010, I was given the chance to visit Liberia with CAFOD and work with other young people my age. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I log on to the official WYD website and discover three Liberian young people are registered to go to Madrid. In fact, according to the website 46,815 young people from the 40 CAFOD partner countries are expected to be attending the celebrations – wow!
If I’m honest, I’m not really sure what to expect – I’m slightly nervous as to what I may experience, the stories I might hear. Although I have seen first-hand poverty and hunger at its worst in Liberia, I’m not sure how I may feel hearing stories from other twenty-year olds from countries from Asia, South America, even Europe. I just hope I can make friendships because really, twenty-year olds are more than likely the same all over the world – we all have relationships, families, jobs…
So for that reason, why I want to go to Madrid this summer is simple – I am truly looking forward to meeting as many different like-minded young Catholics from around the world. It’s not often we get the chance to meet many other Catholic young people outside of our parishes, schools or universities yet here is an opportunity to really get a sense of how international our faith can be. We all come from different backgrounds – rich, poor, educated, uneducated, access to clean water, you get the idea – but what isn’t so different about us is our commitment to our faith; our passion to praise God.
I am reminded of the scene in the Nativity when all different kinds of people (the lowly shepherds, the rich wise men…) start on a pilgrimage to get a glimpse of Christ. Not only will I get a chance to meet people from around the world, I will also get a chance to pray with them, worship with them, and reflect with them much like the pilgrims did that night in Bethlehem. What better experience could I ask for to really appreciate the feeling of global fellowship and harmony? I don’t think there is one.