At a glance, Barcelona has it all.
Temperate weather, Mediterranean views, stunning architecture—it doesn’t get much better than the vibrant seaside city in the northeast corner of Spain.
But the spiritual climate?
“That’s a different picture,” said Hans Mannegren, who has become acquainted with Barcelona as director of the May 1-2 Barcelona Festival de la Esperanza (Festival of Hope) with Franklin Graham.
“It’s a beautiful city,” Mannegren said. “I love the food, the architecture, the history, the people—just about everything.
“However, it’s so dark spiritually. I would say that most people do not think Jesus is real. They think that’s something that has to do with yesterday, with religion. And that He is certainly not relevant.”
Barcelona is part of an autonomous region of Spain called Catalonia, on the border of France. For years, the region has been locked in a battle over proposed independence from Spain.
Adding to the turmoil, nearly 20 percent of Catalonians are unemployed, and that number doubles when you look at the region’s youngest workers.
“There was a study that said 68 percent of the people in Catalonia didn’t see that there was much hope for the future,” Mannegren said. “That’s a tough view on life.”
But a group of dedicated local Christians has spent years working to change that bleak outlook and infuse real hope into Barcelona.
At the invitation of those local believers, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) is holding a two-day event aimed at reaching those who are far from God with the hope of Jesus.
“I think the church in general is encouraged by what has happened the last few decades,” Mannegren said, explaining that there used to be only a handful of evangelical churches in Barcelona, compared to hundreds today.
“But at times, I believe a lot of the churches feel as though it’s a tough climate,” he said. “A lot of people are postmodern. A lot of them are also perhaps agnostic. Some of them have no faith at all, and they state that clearly.”
For many months, BGEA has been partnering with more than 200 churches in Catalonia, leading thousands of believers through Christian Life and Witness classes and encouraging them to invite everyone they know to the Festival.
Christians have banded together, holding prayer vigils throughout Barcelona and walking the city streets, praying.
They hope those prayers will culminate in just a few weeks at the Palau Sant Jordi, a sports arena originally built for the 1992 Olympics.
Inside the arena, located on a hill overlooking the city, Franklin Graham will preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as local music acts join international artists Marcos Vidal, Michael W. Smith and The Afters.
As people respond to the Gospel, believers who have prayed fervently for their city will see the Festival slogan come to life: Barcelona se llena de esperanza – Barcelona is full of hope.
“It’s a declaration of truth!” Mannegren said. “You cannot hide a city on a hill. It’s going to be very public, very open and very exciting.”
And it’s all centered upon the only permanent hope for Barcelona and the world—Jesus Christ.
“This is not a fairy tale,” Mannegren said. “This is not something of the past. Jesus is still alive. He is still the way, the truth and the life.
“There is a remnant of people standing up and saying, ‘In the name of Jesus, we ask you, Lord, to come and grab ahold of this city and the people that are in it.’”