World Indigenous Youth Gathering

Plenary indulgence before the Image of Fatima at WYD Panama
January 21, 2019
Juvenile prisoners prepare for Pope Francis
January 22, 2019

World Indigenous Youth Gathering

Indigenous Youth sharing their challenges and hopes from faith
With the motto, “We turn to the memory of our past to build hope with courage,” the World Indigenous Youth Gathering is being held from January 17th to 21st, in Saloy, Ngäbe-Bugle Comarca, Panama, where thousands of young people from countries such as Panama, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, and Honduras will gather.
It is a true festival of faith and joy, centered on Jesus Christ from the richness of idigenous cultures and it is an opportunity for indigenous young people from around the world to share their challenges and hopes.
The big surprise: Pope Francis’ message
Pope Francis’ video message addressed to these indigenous young people was a big surprise. He encouraged them to celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ with joy: “I congratulate you because for the first time, a pre-WYD gathering has been organized for the youth of indigenous peoples, of native peoples, on a wordwide level. I want to thank the indiginous ministry of the Bishop’s Conference of Panama, supported by CELAM, for this initiative.
“Dear young people, I invite you in this gathering that brings together hundreds of youths of various native peoples, to reflect and celebrate your faith in Jesus Christ from the richness of your own native cultures. I urge you to use this opportunity to respond to the invitation to the youth of other times to be thankful for the history of your peoples and to be courageous when facing the challenges that surround you when moving forward, full of hope for the construction of a better world. Go back to your native cultures. Take charge of your roots because the strength that allows you to grow, flourish, and bear fruit comes from your roots. This should also be a way for you to show the indigenous face of our church in the atmosphere of WYD and to affirm our commitment to protect our Common Home and collaborate in the construction of a better, more equitable, and more humane world.
“Without a doubt, the themes that will be the focus of your reflection will stimulate the search for a response from an evangelical perspective to so many scandalous situations of marginalizations, of exclusion, of discarding and empoverishing of those thousands of youth who are condemned, especially young people of native peoples, in the world.
“May your actions, and your sense of identity to your people, be a reaction against this throw-away culture, against this culture of forgetting your roots, projecting a more fluid, gaseous future, without foundations. Boys and girls, take charge of your cultures! Take charge of your roots!
“But don’t stay there. From those roots, grow, flourish, bear fruit. A poet once said that ‘all that flowers on a tree comes from what it has underground,’ that is the roots, but roots brought to the future, projected toward the future. This is your challenge today. It would be a joy for me to meet you in Panama, and while this moment is coming, I wish you the best and I give you my blessing,” concluded the Holy Father.
At the end of WYD Krakow, Pope Francis invited the young volunteers to be “the hope of the future,” but remembering that to be hope, it is fundamental to have remembrance: “remembrance of my people, remembrance of my family, remembrance of all of my history,” but he also called them to be courageous in the present, to be brave in the face of situations and to sow seeds for the future. That’s why the indigenous youth proposed the motto: “We assume the memory of our past to build hope with courage.”
The theme
The first day of the gathering was focused on the living memory of their peoples, the sacred Word, and the traditions that guide the way to walk. In harmony with the Gospel, grandparents help them to live their indigenous identity with pride from the values and traditions that they received as a inheritance and blessing from God.
The second day focused on the fight to maintain harmony with Mother Earth from the richness of their cultures in the light of Laudato Si’.
On the third day, the focus was put on the importance of the youth actively participating in the construction of a better world, offering their communities and the world their talents as indigenous young people to promote “Good Living,” that the Kingdom of God would be more evident among us.
The daily dynamic
Each day began with a moment of joy through activities, song, music, and dance.
Afterwards there was an important moment of encounter with Christ through prayer and songs in various languages while each delegation put a symbol on the altar that symbolizes the memory and identity of their peoples.
After prayer came the theme of each day. It should be noted that after each theme, there were moments of sharing in which each young person had a space to express themself and to listen to others. On the first day, Fátima González, a mexican girl of the Nayar prelature, shared, “I feel very proud to live in a prelature where there are five indigenous cultures, which help me to be more humble and to relate with people, going to help for Easter in places where there are indigenous peoples. Those of us who participate in Mexico are very excited because this is the first WYD that we are participating in and this motivates us to find new ways to bring more indigenous youth closer to God.”
In the afternoons, there is a festival where there were activities, such as mini-pilgrimages, ancestral games, sports, ecological activies, among others.
In the evenings, there are cultural events organized by the Panamanians of Ngäbe-Bugle, Naso, Bribri, and the peoples of countries north of here on the first day, and on the second day organized by the Panamanians of Guna, Emberá, Wounaan, and the peoples of countries toward the south.
Youth on Pilgrimage
On Saturday the 19th, the indigenous youth left at 4 in the morning in pilgrimage to Cerro Viejo, in song and praise, so that they could welcome the sun, which is important for native peoples, while in prayer at 5:30 a.m. On Sunday in the afternoon, they will have a closing Mass, which will include an Emberá ritual of purification during the entrance, songs and readings in various languages, and the sending rite to the various countries to WYD.
Interesting facts:

It is the first gathering of indigenous youth on a global level.

More than 360 youth from 7 countries participated in this event.

The planning began 2 years ago.

The young people arrived sooner than expected because of the joy of this first gathering.

Soloy is 430 kilometers from Panama City.

The closing Mass will be presided by Cardinal José Luis Lacunza, who was present at the beginning of the gathering and welcomed the participants.
Other information to take into account
This year, 2019, was declared by the United Nations as the “International Year of Indigenous Languages,” with the purpose of “drawing attention to the serious loss of these languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize, and promote them and to adopt new urgent measure at the national and international levels.”
The Aparecida Docuement speaks on various occations about indigenous peoples, but does so particularly in paragraphs 88 to 96. It also calls indigenous youth to be evangelizers without losing their identity in paragraph 325: “Young people from poor families or indigenous groups require an inculturated formation, that is, they must receive adequate theological and spiritual training for their future ministry, without thereby losing their roots, and so that they may accordingly be evangelizers close to their peoples and cultures.”