About half a million young people around the world are expected to congregate in Toronto, Canada on July 22-28, 2002 to celebrate the 17th World Youth Day. Close to about two thousand young Filipinos left the country to join the event—about fifty of them came from the three provinces of Samar, representing the three dioceses and some faith groups such as those of the Neocatechumenal communities. So far the most attended World Youth Day Celebration was here in the Philippine in 1995 with 4.5 million young people coming from around the globe. Second was during the Jubilee Year 2000, when it was celebrated in Rome with 2 million participants.
At the initiative of the Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day celebrations (WYD) was begun in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1987, at the closing of the Holy Year of Redemption when the Holy Father entrusted the wooden cross to the youth of the world as a sign of the Christ’s for mankind. Since then it has been celebrated once every two years: 1989 in Santiago de Compostela, Spain; 1991, in Czestochowa, Poland; 1993 in Denver, USA; 1995 in Manila; 1997 in Paris, France; 2000 in Rome, Italy. After the celebration in France, there was a three-year interval before the next international celebration. This happened to allow the World Youth Day celebration to take place in the context of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000. In the years between the international WYDs, it is celebrated locally on Palm Sunday around the world.
Every World Youth Day celebration carries a theme propounded by the Holy Father himself. This year the them is: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the World.” (Mt. 5:13-14). In his message, the Pontiff exhort all young people of the world to bear witness to the presence of Christ in today’s society, and to become builders of the “civilization of love and truth”. He encourages the youth further: “Do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart. You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life. If you have an ardent desire for the Lord you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society.” Today no one is so deeply concerned with the youth than the Pope himself.
The exhortations of the Holy Father cannot be more deafening than hearing it in our very own backyard. In the last Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, we see quite clearly how adult politicians do role modeling. News papers reported 82 deaths from election-related violence. Violence and killings have become accepted as part and parcel of the Philippine electoral process, just like vote buying and cheating. This we do without qualms. In fact, both COMELEC Chairman and President Arroyo thinks the government did a good job in keeping peace and order during the latest electoral exercise. No wonder the statistics of victims of election violence hardly goes down.
While the youth is the hope of the fatherland, so says Dr. Jose Rizal, in Samar as in other parts of the country, young people are fielded in dirty politics. They are the principal victims in the horrible illegal drug business. Even the ideologue rebels recruit them for utopian causes. In the middle things, I don’t think there is really much to hope for. But that’s being pessimistic.
(Samar Times, August 2002)