THE two million young people from all over the world that gathered in Madrid for the 26th World Youth Day last August 16 to 21 could have easily been a big media event—or at least according to usual journalism books. Gathering that big volume of young people especially at a time following the pro-democracy youth of the Arab Spring and the aimless youth riots in London cannot but hit the pages and TV screens irrespective of whether they were Catholics or not.
And yet, it was not. The international media seem to have ignored the big gathering. Streaks of reportage came from global networks, but mostly to cover the ragtag protestors and the loud but few street economists who bewailed too much expense for the event but were clueless that it in fact has delivered hundreds of millions of Euros in revenues for the host country. In contrast, the media were more ardent, or so it seemed, about the first World Youth Summit in Connecticut, USA organized by the United Nations last July which did not hit the targeted 20,000 attendance of young people despite the lavish logistics.
A young blogger from Reuters, Jo-Anne Rowney, writes: “When I returned to London from last week’s World Youth Day, I checked the newspapers and logged on to news sites where I expected to be greeted with pilgrims’ smiling faces and headlines capturing the joyful spirit of the Catholic youth from around the globe who gathered to see Pope Benedict during his visit to Madrid. What I found left me feeling disappointed. The majority of the articles reported the ‘thousands’ of protestors against the visit.”
The stark contrasts of young people in the Arab Spring, the London rioters, the UN youth summit and the world youth in Madrid that happened in close chronological sequence should have easily elicited commentaries from international columnists such as those in the New York Times, the avant-garde opinion leaders in the world—but none, to date.
But, of course, that does not diminish the profound impact of the World Youth Day on the world’s young people ever since it started in 1986. The 1995 World Youth Day in Manila, for instance, has left an indelible imprint in the hearts of those participants who may have been witnessing their faith by “telling the world of his love” in their own particular ways.
The Australian editor of MercatorNet, Michael Cook writes, “The biggest stories are the hidden stories… Unnoticed by the media, 2 million young people have embarked upon a journey which will lead many of them to infuse their home countries with their deeply held Christian beliefs. Slowly the world is going to change. Thirty years from now, the media is going to have one hell of a surprise.”