Am I the only one left wondering what the hell is with this World Youth Day
thing? Please, pardon my blasphemy but I am not entirely comfortable with an international day of anything being so exclusive. Which ‘youth’ are we talking about? Because all I keep hearing is Popes and prayers and pilgrims. That’s certainly not what I think of when I try to define ‘youth.’
But let’s put this into perspective; we’re not just talking about alienating all other religious and non-religious young people, we’re talking about government-backed preferential treatment. As Jennifer Mills over on New Matilda
asked back in March, “When the Catholics take over Sydney Harbour in July, who will be footing the $150 million bill?” The figure is a 50% blowout from original allocations. In her budget breakdown she attributes 20 to 24% to the Federal government in cash grants with a further unknown sum being picked up by the New South Wales State Governemnt in in-kind costs. She lists security, accommodation, emergency health care and use of up to 300 Sydney venues including a 4-day ”vocations expo” designed to “encourage youth to join religious orders” at the Convention Centre in Darling Harbour. But let’s not forget the reduced transport costs, health insurance and visa costs included in pilgrims’ $50 to $395 (depending on the pilgrim’s country of origin) registration. Now factor in the dollar value to close the Sydney Harbour Bridge for 12 hours and the price tag attached of $41 million being paid to the Australian Jockey Club and the racing industry to reserve Randwick Racecourse for Pope Benedict XVI’s vigil mass.
That’s a lot of money for one class of people. But we do of course spend money on other interest groups. So here’s Mills’ food for thought:
As a topical comparison, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras brings a comparable number of visitors and an estimated $45 million into New South Wales, but attracts zero funding from either the State or Federal Governments. When Clover Moore raised the lack of State funding in Parliament two weeks ago, Iemma directed her to Events NSW, the new coordinating body which is supposed to attract more events to the State.
And of course there is that whole issue of the $5550 fine for innconveniencing or annoying pilgrims at event areas, transport interchanges, anywhere along the pilgrimage’s route across Sydney or anywhere within a 500 metre radius of these locations is conversation starter. Not only will the Federal and NSW State government help foot your bill to express your religious freedom, but it will actively hinder the legitimate expression of other people’s political opinion.
At least the Federal court struck
the word “annoying” from the legislation (which read), but as barrister John Griffith, SC, acting on behalf of , whole filed the action against the NSW Government, said:
“It is a one-way street of offence, there is no comparable or equivalent protection directed the other way … in relation to the conduct of participants in World Youth Day which may cause annoyance or inconvenience to members of the public.”
And what about people who legitimately want to oppose Benedict’s position on contraception, abortion and homosexuality? Is that “annoyance”?
But there is some hope. For the rest of the young people who aren’t represented by World Youth Day, there’s still a chance to have a voice. PROJECTeye is a Vibewire initiative that is playing devil’s advocate (so to speak) by providing a safe space for all young people to have a voice with World Youth Day. It is a space to comment, reflect on and be critical on the issue of faith.
To help things along, Vibewire has engaged a team of young reporters to provide coverage during the international event. They will be supplemented with comment from guest bloggers including Young Australian of the Year 2006 Trisha Broadridge, Father Chris Riley from Youth Off The Streets, NSW MP Kristina Keneally
and Karl Schubert, who was one of the 60 young Australians who accepted teh cross and icon in the lead up to the 2008 event. And to keep it balanced, WYD pilgrims and non-attendees are invited to inform this space. It’s got all your usual wizz-bangs: text-based publishing, photos and videos. You can even submit comments by SMS.
From the media Release:
“PROJECTeye does not endorse any one point of view but rather is a place where all points of view are equally considered,” says spokesperson Mary Nguyen. “In light of the new WYD legislation released last Tuesday, imposing fines of up to $5,500 on anyone caught ‘annoying’ a Catholic, it’s imperative that youth feel they have an outlet conducive to their freedom of speech”.
“Vibewire is proud to provide this opportunity for young people to share their experiences and views,” states Nathan Frick, CEO of Vibewire Inc. “Taking part in the world’s largest youth event should not be dependent on your location and your beliefs”it should be about creating an ongoing dialogue between the youth themselves.
PROJECTeye, keeping in line with Vibewire’s vision, is dedicated to providing opportunities for youth driven conversation based on tolerance, respect and knowledge, all the while getting to the heart of the issues confronting young people all over Australia and beyond.