The golden lion of the Sri Lankan flag fluttered in the icy breeze at a bus stop crowded with pilgrims attending Sydney’s World Youth Day in Australia. Beside the Sri Lankan colours, pilgrims waved a pennant displaying the Indian tricolour. Toward the back of the group, Pakistan’s green and white flag billowed.
This small vignette from Sydney’s 2008 World Youth Day in which a group of sixty or so pilgrims from the restless Indian sub-continent came together in peace and harmony, was a clear indication of the power of such festivities.
They joined 500,000 other young pilgrims from all around the world who had come to take part in a series of events in July with Pope Benedict XVI. Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga also travelled to Sydney.
For WYD 2008, Caritas Australia hosted a broad programme under the banner: ‘Witness, Aspire, Act’. Calling on people to engage with issues of justice, and in the words of Cardinal Rodríguez, to act as true ‘global citizens’.
The Millennium Development Goals were centre stage at the Blueprint for a Better World exhibition. Calling for a renewed focus on the MDGs, Caritas urged us all to be agents for change and to redouble our commitment, at the personal, community, national and international levels in order to grasp this opportunity to truly make poverty history.
Workshops on climate change in the Pacific heard how people in the region are already reeling from the effects of rising sea levels, increased salinity eroding the productive capacity of arable land and the dying off of coral reefs that affects traditional fishing grounds. ‘The Unintended Pilgrimage’ was a powerful exposition of the terror which shrouds the lives of displaced people. Three young children from Darfur told their stories prompting a rousing response from the packed crowd.
Cardinal Rodríguez stole the show though when after finishing his discussion calling us all to “be more” in the world, he pulled out a saxophone and gave a performance of some jazz numbers.