Genfest: The Focolare Movement Builds More Bridges

Everything PR News has always professed that as a societal term and function, literally everything is public relations. Watching Genfest in Budapest, and via our own recent efforts to support Generation Ali, somehow a unified world seems all the closer. From a PR perspective too, what could be better public relations than the youth of the world unifying us all? This article asks the question “What If” of today’s youth.

Let's Bridge Rally Budapest everything-pr

Let’s Bridge Rally Budapest

Take a few minutes with me to look at some extraordinary people and initiatives.

Let’s Bridge!

Researching for some news for our Eastern Europe travel news site, Argophilia Travel News, I ran across a wonderful fest in Budapest called Genfest. Running from Friday through this evening, Genfest is a gathering of young people from over 100 countries to engage and, as they term it, “bridge” the gaps that divide us. “Let’s Bridge” is the motto of this year’s event in fact, but let’s define for you what Genfest and the Focolare Movement are about first.

Genfest yesterday in Budapest

Genfest yesterday in Budapest

An International organization, the Focolare Movement fosters the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood for all humankind. Founded in Trent, Italy in 1943 the matron of the movement was Chiara Lubich. Initially Roman Catholic at its origins, the movement now links all the major religions and even non religious elements toward the end of the greater good. In some 182 nations roughly 100,000 active members in 25 branches undertake good in the following domains; within the school ‘Abba’, through the ‘Economy of Communion’ (linkups with 800 companies), evangelical efforts in small cities, worldwide social work, and in publishing magazines.

Recognized by the Pope, the movement carries on the idealistic quest of Chiara Lubich through Focolare (small communities of volunteers) who seek to contribute to peace and evangelical unity between all peoples across all social spheres.

Muhammad AliBroad-reaching as The Focolare Movement may seem, with goals that might appear impossible, never the less the young people who drive this effort are quite extraordinary, I spoke yesterday with the group’s press contact Laura Hernández via phone. No more enthusiastic nor kind communicator have I run across in years of PR and journalism. If there is one thing to be said if Genfest’s volunteers, they are very kind and intelligent.

The purpose of my call was to try and “bridge” Genfest and The Focolare Movement with none other than Muhammad Ali’s (image left) Generation Ali, a humanitarian outreach begun by Ali and the Ali Center during London 2012. You can read about Gen Ali here, but to get on with our Genfest story…

Chiara Lubich passed away in 2008, but her dream lives on and perhaps even stronger than ever. If we try and fathom for a moment what it means for people to dedicate their entire lives to peace and unity, to a higher goal of any kind, then the impact we can all have is elevated. Standing in Chiara’s stead now is Maria Voce, one of the movement’s most experienced and cherished proponents, and friend to Chiara Lubich too. Here words yesterday before Genfest, resonate a simple hopeful elegance:

“Then, have no fear!” she continued, “Be yourselves and enter personally into society, and place your small or great personality at its service, your abilities and your talents. You make a unique contribution, one that will never be repeated again, different from that of the adults. . . You are now called to spend your lives for something immense, leaving behind you something immortal.”

Genfest on stage yesterday.

Road Work – The Beginning of Bridges

In conclusion, the ideals that have propelled The Focolare Movement this far, mirrow what Muhammad Ali himself has striven for, at least at the core. On such short notice, connecting these and other organizations is a tall task indeed. Speaking yesterday with with Donald Lassere, CEO of the Ali Center, short notice prevents the Ali’s from directly engaging the Genfest crowd this weekend, and the same holds true for heads of other organization. The desire is there however. A statement from Ali’s wonderful and dedicated wife Lonnie to the Louisville press, shows the local community essence of how unifying people has to start at the local level. I quite from Lonnie’s article in the Courier-Journal:

“..we understood that the center needed to be located here in Louisville, and that its mission needed to inspire others to be as great as they can be, and —much like Muhammad — to help them stand up for what they believe. Those values were honed right here in Louisville, and even though Muhammad has traveled all over the world, it was important for him to return home to his roots, to demonstrate to new generations that if a skinny kid from Louisville, Ky., could rise to become one of the most recognized people in the world, then anyone can achieve greatness in their own right.”

Moving forward, “bridging” organizations like The Focolare Movement, Generation Ali, and even more far reaching youth movements such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), for instance, can have a huge impact – something actually above and beyond political detente. And there are many, many more. World Learning, Save the Children, Legacy International, and other youth oriented organizations could conceivably reshape our world in less than a generation. In fact, they already are separately. Wait til we hook them together.

It is at the heart of our communal existence that we bind the close ties that strengthen us. Then, reaching out to like communities with similar ideals, we can galvanize to become stronger and more unified toward those ideals.

Genfest Rally participants

There’s nothing more inspiring than love

Organizations like The Focolare, Generation Ali and the Ali Center, and world hunger organizations for instance, make a far more powerful statement than any one entity alone. Even an entity so well known as Muhammad Ali himself, a person as universally accepted for their spiritual inspiration as Chiara Lubich, these are only icons for what is far more powerful. Our collective spirit, combined with determination and courage, this is how change is done. This is how ideals become reality.

I know what I am trying to accomplish will be misunderstood by some, but let me leave you with a quote from Ali that not too many people ever saw. You see, on the one hand we have very religious and spiritual people, not mired in their ridgid principles, but empowered by them to a degree. And then we people of uttmost spirituality imbued differently so as to reach another persuasion of people.

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  1. Malik A. Sharif says

    Your article is so inspirational and timeless. Having experienced the turmoil and pain of the 50’s and 60’s in America, the soothing balm of now interacting with the world community of faithful people has removed that hurt. I commend you for putting to pen the universal truth of the importance of the youth continuing to carry the torch for the survival of humanity. Chiara Lubich touched my heart deeply and Muhammad Ali occupies a permanent place in my soul. I have been able to see the “unified world” that you speak of. I am confident that the fruit of the efforts of groups like the gathering in Budapest will be the bright light shining in spite of darkness. Contrary to your thoughts of being mis-understood, the Believers embrace your thoughts and support the ideals you have articulated. The world unfolding is beautiful and good.

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