WYD hope for Third World pilgrims


World Youth Day pilgrimsWhen Chantelle Ogilvie was at World Youth Day in Cologne in 2000, she attended a forum where she heard a young South American woman crying as she explained: 'I can't believe there are so many people who care about what's happening in our village.'

It showed Chantelle another side of World Youth Day — the positive impact it has on those from the majority world.

Religious experience in the majority world seems more intense and Catholicism seems edgier in its action, the further we move away from privilege.

Examples abound. When the Government of Northern Uganda was negotiating a peace settlement with the Lords' Resistance Army some years ago, it was a Catholic agency that was trusted by both sides to facilitate.

Colombia has been in the headlines recently because of the dramatic rescue of Ingrid Betancourt. There, left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary and the army struggle for control. Currently, it is the Colombian Catholic bishops who are talking with these groups, in an attempt to broker a negotiated peace.

Margareta Brosnan, who now works for the Catholic Church's aid agency Caritas Australia, spent the last four years working in Paris with the International Young Catholic Students Association. During that time she travelled to 32 different countries in the majority world visiting places as diverse as Haiti, Uganda and Sri Lanka.

Faith, she explains, gives hope in some pretty desperate situations, for example to the Palestinian Christians.

'Young people in the majority world are more called to faithful institutions because of the sense of hope that these institutions are able to instil. They provide a sense of hope and community that young people otherwise wouldn't find,' she says, adding that it is not necessarily just Catholic faith communities that have the effect.

Sister Clemencia Kobi, OLSH, from Papua New Guinea, believes that for young people from her country World Youth Day will be an opportunity to move out of 'their own corner'.

She agrees that the experience of faith is more intense for her Papua New Guinean people than it is for those from the privileged world. 'Our faith is so rich in our place there,' she says.

Sr Kobi believes it is harder for young people in the affluent world to experience such rich faith, because they have so much access to technology and other distractions.

Chantelle echoes the idea: 'I often joke that in the West we don't need God because we've got air-conditioning.'

One of Chantelle's parents is Australian, the other is from the Philippines, so Chantelle grew up with a foot in both worlds. 'People from the privileged world have the illusion that they are in control of their lives,' she says.

Not so in the majority world, she adds, where natural disasters jostle with man-made calamities to lead one to despair. The experience of work is often brutal — if you can get work, you have little power to negotiate it. The vulnerability of the individual is more keenly felt, hence a greater reliance on faith and community.

Talking with a group freshly arrived for World Youth Day it is easy to see what she means.

Nadeem Bashir is a Catholic from Islamic Pakistan. He works for the Young Christian Workers organisation, which was recently involved in the negotiations to free 25 Christians kidnapped by Muslim extremists.

Nadeem's working day involves fighting for justice for factory and construction workers. For him, World Youth Day is an opportunity to meet new friends and to understand the problems of people from other parts of the world.

Andy Predicala comes from the Philippines, a mainly Catholic country, where many people work seven days a week, with no rest. 'They have no time for Church or bible studies, for their communities and families,' he says.

He is informed in his fight against such corrosive circumstances by his faith — 'It is my motivation,' he says. He can't wait to meet other young people to compare experiences.

Nalini Peries of Sri Lanka finds that she is preoccupied with the needs of women. One of the major issues she is addressing is the high level of rape in her country. 'Coming to World Youth Day is a big step for me,' she says. 'I trust God very much, so I want to develop my faith with this World Youth Day.'

Of course, no one group has a monopoly on faith.Bailey Murillo, 18 years old, is from Black Forest, Colorado. More innocent than the others, he is here for a faith experience. He is contemplating becoming a priest and believes that World Youth Day will help him decide.

When it comes to international aid, Australians pride themselves on their generosity. In that regard, World Youth Day should be acknowledged for the supportive role it can play for young people of all walks of life.

Young Christian Workers Australia


Margaret RiceMargaret Rice is a Sydney-based freelance journalist.


Flickr image by M_Y

Topic tags: margaret rice, caritas, world youth day, developing countries, disadvantaged youth, international aid



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Existing comments

Congratulations Margaret on your lovely article. You're correct in characterising the generosity of individual Australians as being praiseworthy. With the Australian government expending less than 0.3% of our GDP on foreign aid, I wonder how Australians can be proud of that. The target for developed countries in foreign aid expenditure is a miserable 0.7% of GDP and our lousy government manages less than half of that.

Claude Rigney | 15 July 2008  

i too appreciated this article very much. it usefully corroborates my own hunch that much of the really important diplomacy in the world today is being conducted by and through international NGOs like Caritas and other organisations mentioned by the author.

One could add the major roles played by IGOs like Medecins sans Frontieres in the Burma post-cyclone crisis.

They are not waiting on governments to negotiate access: they are just getting on with it, trusting in the weight and international prestige of their organisations to sort out asny problems with the Burmese government.

tony kevin | 16 July 2008  

Fr Raphael from Ghana for WYD told us he works in a wealthy parish. When asked what a common family home is like he told us it is two rooms. At night the furniture in the main room is moved to one side. The parents sleep in the bedroom and the children lay mattresses on the floor. His is an average sized family. He has five brothers and one sister.

Margaret McDonald | 16 July 2008  

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