In the wake trying to cope with the ravages of Hurricane Florence, the World Youth Day gathering of Indigenous Youth in Panama is probably not uppermost in the minds of most of us. But then again, in spite of its relevance, neither is Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical Laudato Si. Still, it is renewing to spend a few minutes with Fr. Joe Fitzgerald of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission. In this reflection, he shares exciting plans for the World Youth Day pre-event to a look anew at the wonders of our creation with people who live closer to it than we do. It is an invitation to prayerful reflection on our common home.
A Celebration in Harmony with Our Common Home
A beautiful place: during the World Youth Day celebration (2019), the indigenous pilgrims from throughout the world will experience an intimate encounter with Mother Earth in Soloy, the site of the Ngäbe-Bugle reservation. Upon entering the District of Besiko, the participants will be received by the leader of the indigenous people who live in this area. They will be able to see an incredible biodiversity in the Jebai Valley that is surrounded by Mount Viejo, Mount Miel and Mount Gato. Furthermore, they will see how the Fonseca River winds its way through the very place where these young men and women will meet together. The banks of this river provide a wonderful place for the pilgrims to relax and enjoy themselves.
Prayer brings us into harmony with our common home: there will be different opportunities for prayer … on January 19th the participants will focus on the theme: from the perspective of faith and our vision of the universe, we live in harmony with our common home. The young men and women will leave at 04:00 am to climb Mount Viejo. Then, as the sun rises they will participate in the Rite of the Cosmic Cross that will be led by the Mayan Delegation.
United in the struggle for Mother Earth: the young men and women will also hear testimonies given by their peers from the many different indigenous groups with regard to their struggles, their difficulties and their achievements in protecting Mother Earth from the throwaway culture. At the same time, the participants will put together a mural of photographs and images and words that express the common struggle to protect Mother Earth.
An ecological pilgrimage: each participant will be given the opportunity to experience an ecological pilgrimage … they will prepare bags of seedlings of fruits tress and then, during the rainy season, these five thousand trees will then be planted and cared for by the families who reside in the District of Besiko.
Besiko Bonkrabe (Beautiful Besiko): the participants will also initiate a community project related to the management of garbage … the project is intended to promote a culture with regard to the management of solid waste (thus creating a positive impact on the environment).
Avoid the production of garbage: in an attempt to not create more garbage, each of the participants will be given a metal thermos (with the logo EMJI) and will be able to fill this container with water at the various sites that they will visit (and at the same time they will avoid using plastic bottles during the time of their gathering). Meals will be served in pumpkin gourds and plantain leaves (again avoiding the use of plastic).