The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is taking stock of its campaign “Let’s be One,” launched at the World Youth Day in Cracow from 26 to 31 July 2016. The aim of the campaign was to raise awareness of the situation of those young Christians who couldn’t come to Cracow. The campaign was very successful. 3,000 postcards were sent in 23 languages by those at the WYD to other young people in 100 different countries, especially those suffering persecution or war.
During the WYD ACN staff informed about the situation of the suffering Church worldwide at their “Vocation Centre”. Young people visiting the ACN stand were invited to show their solidarity and unity in prayer by writing a postcard to their chosen country. ACN has arranged to forward these postcards via its project partners.
The largest number of messages promising prayers were addressed to Syria and Iraq. Melisa from Panama (the country due to host the next WYD, in 2019) has written to the people of Syria:
“At this moment my heart is full of love, which I want to give you, to tell you that God loves you infinitely. And I love you too. Wherever you are, my heart, my strength and my prayers are with you. The Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ is the light and the power which unites you and me. I hope you will find the peace which only He can give. I will be with you always. Melisa”.
Veronika’s message from Poland is addressed to Iraq, from where only a group of 200 young people were able to attend the WYD. It reads:
“I am young, but I believe I can do a lot for peace in the world. I am sad that I can’t meet with you in Cracow. Everyone here wants to know you, and I am sure that everyone is praying for you and your country. I think about you. Jesus is with you. Be STRONG!”
Many messages were destined for countries suffering from poverty, political instability or wars. Among them South Sudan, where since 2013 a fresh civil war has engulfed hundreds of thousands of lives and left about a million people internally displaced. ACN had already been informed at the beginning of the WYD that none of the 18 young people expected from Sudan and South Sudan had been granted a visa and that therefore they could not take part. Melanie, from Germany, has written to the people of South Sudan:
“I am glad to be here at the World Youth Day, but I am really sorry that it isn’t possible for you to be here. I will pray for you and your friends who didn’t get the chance to come here. Also I will pray for the peace in the world and in your country”.
Maria, from Spain, wrote to the young people of Sudan, in the north, where most of the Christians are discriminated against:
“I want you to know that I think you are very brave to have so much faith to even risk your lives for it. I know that we can learn a lot from you and this is why I pray for you, so that one day you can experience the WYD. So that you realize that you are not alone. With lots of love, Maria.”
The postcards from the participants at the WYD included many extremely touching messages from young people who themselves come from countries where the Church is in need, addressed to their brothers and sisters struggling in other countries:
“Dear Friend, I am so happy that I have this opportunity to write to you. I want you to know that God’s love and mercy is for all of us. I am praying for you in a special way. You are unique and God loves you!”.
So wrote Salome, from India, to the people of Kenya. And this was the message sent to the people of Niger by Alejandra:
“Dear Friends, I want to tell you that there is someone who loves you so much and prays and takes care of you always. His name is Jesus. May God bless you, and you also have a friend from Bolivia who is praying for you – me”.
There were also messages from young people in countries facing economic crises, sent to other countries which until recently were not in need but where, due to the escalation in terrorist activity, the situation has changed dramatically. For example, Wilmen from Venezuela, still suffering the current economic and political crisis in his own country, wrote:
“For France. So that there is no more terrorism against priestly vocations. May the Lord in his infinite love spread His graces abundantly upon you. May the Lord touch the hearts of the terrorists and change hatred into peace”.
Some of the messages included very specific promises of prayers. For example, Father Andrew from the USA wrote to the people of Vanuatu, in the Pacific Ocean:
“I am keeping you in my prayers and will remember you at my Mass tomorrow. God bless you”.
Some were also asking for prayers themselves, like the young seminarian from Poland who addressed his postcard to the young people of Israel:
“I am brother Celestino, I am a Franciscan. I am training for the priesthood. I want to work in the Holy Land. Please pray for me and for my vocation. I pray for you and love you.”
There were also postcards addressed to the young people featured on the the “selfie” videos for the ACN “Let’s be One” campaign. These videos were shown online and also on the big screens before the meetings with Pope Francis. Majeda from Israel, Carlos from Cuba, Alex from Kenya, Martin from Iraq, Anette from Papua New Guinea and Michał from Poland were sent postcards from other young pilgrims, thanking them for their inspiration, for their work, for their strength and joy, despite their difficulties. Even if they were not able to attend the WYD, the young participants felt very close to them. So writes one pilgrim:
“We met a friend from Cuba. His name is Carlos. Before I met him I was so tired and exhausted, and I always complained about everything. But I learned happiness from Carlos! It was a blessing from God.”
ACN will now forward these postcards, via their project partners worldwide. Even though WYD 2016 is now over, ACN has announced that the “Let’s be One” campaign will continue, as a powerful bridge of spiritual solidarity and love between the youth of the world and as a sign of hope and life. Dominika from Poland has understood the core message of the ACN campaign when she writes to Egypt:
“I want to share with those of you who couldn’t come to the WYD in Cracow the spirit that was present here with us over those days. May it accompany you and help you in your daily life. I am sending you a little piece of this atmosphere of the meeting with Pope Francis, who brought us hope for better days”.