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Old 10-03-2013, 08:06 AM   #1
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Youth Conferences in Australasia



Port Moresby Youth Conference
Papua New Guinea | 5-7 July 2013

When the friends in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, learned that the historic gathering they were organizing in their city was to be one of the first of 114 youth conferences to be convened around the world, they responded with great enthusiasm and anticipation.

Some days before the conference was to begin, groups of friends from diverse parts of the region undertook long journeys to travel to Port Moresby. Those from Woitape walked for three days and three nights from their community through the rugged terrain of the Central Province of Papua New Guinea. They packed simple food for sustenance, worked to shield themselves against nighttime rain, and had to cross six rivers, all on foot. In recognizing the significance of the occasion, young people from Port Moresby spent the days before the conference cleaning and decorating the venue.

And when the moment came, some 470 youth came together with a degree of excitement that electrified the air. They gathered together, full of joy and gratitude, in a government building in the Waigani suburb of Port Moresby to reflect on the contributions that their generation can make to the building of vibrant communities in neighbourhoods and villages. “I feel so blessed to respond to the call of the Universal House of Justice,” related one youth, “I am so happy to be able to attend [this conference].”

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:07 AM   #2
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Auckland Youth Conference
New Zealand | 19-21 July 2013

On a clear winter’s morning in Manukau, South Auckland, 500 youth from across New Zealand and the Cook Islands began to arrive. They converged at the conference venue, a striking building shaped like a waka, a Polynesian canoe, symbolic of a journey and the Pacific Ocean, an area of the world all of the participants call home.

The conference opened with a traditional Maori haka: an expressive and powerful dance that is used to demonstrate welcome, challenge, power, determination, courage, awe, respect, and honour. This was followed by the waiata, a traditional Maori song. The opening devotions also included an ancient Hawaiian chant, shared with the participants as a gift and a response to the honoured welcome of the haka.

The spirit of the conference was one of joy and humour as the participants deliberated thoughtfully on the questions before them, exploring themes such as the role of each generation in contributing to change, what purpose shapes individual and collective action, and how to develop the capacity for true friendship.

Auckland, New Zealand Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 08:09 AM   #3
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Apia Youth Conference
Samoa | 16-18 August 2013

The thunderous energy of the fa’ataupati, a dynamic dance requiring strength and agility that is used in the region to commemorate significant occasions, shook the stage. The seamless Polynesian-style harmonies of songs, inspired by the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith, reverberated through the air. And the Pacific breeze cooled the conference venue, constructed in the form of a fale—the traditional meeting space—with its oval shape, domed roof, and lack of walls. For three days, with intermittent periods of sunshine and rain, a joyful, energetic, and enthusiastic group of nearly 350 youth from Samoa and American Samoa electrified the atmosphere.

Just months earlier, on 8 February 2013, the Universal House of Justice announced the convocation of a series of youth conferences in locations spanning the globe. The message noted “the decisive contribution made by youth on every continent” and that the conferences were to “summon today’s youth to fully assume the responsibilities they must discharge”.

Apia, Samoa Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 08:10 AM   #4
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Port-Vila Youth Conference
Vanuatu | 17-19 August 2013

Travelling in planes, vehicles, on ships, and by foot, some 1,650 young people from French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu eagerly arrived, many over a week in advance, for the historic youth conference in Port-Vila, Vanuatu, held from 17 to 19 August. From Tanna, in southern Vanuatu, where the Universal House of Justice recently called for the building of one of the first local Houses of Worship in the world, three groups of 200 passengers—a significant percentage of all the youth living on Tanna—arrived in three separate ocean voyages. Two separate flights from the Solomon Islands, with 70 and 30 participants respectively, arrived three days apart. And the day before the conference, 300 youth from the islands of Santo and Malakula, in northern Vanuatu, docked in Port-Vila’s harbour, after a 26-hour journey on a cargo ship.

With abundant joy, several hundred conference-goers, together with the support of many friends in the community, led a parade through Port-Vila to the official conference opening, where over 2,000 people joined in prayer and song. Among those present was the Vanuatu Minister of Youth Development and Sports, who expressed in his address great happiness that Vanuatu was chosen to host the gathering.

Port-Vila, Vanuatu Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 08:12 AM   #5
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Nadi Youth Conference
Fiji | 23-25 August 2013

The Words of God, reverently sung in joyful tones, harmonized with the lapping waves of the Pacific as participants joined their voices in welcome at the conference in Nadi. Following the morning devotions, a group presented a Fijian meke—a traditional dance that weaves storytelling and song and is reserved for special occasions—after which representatives of the Universal House of Justice and a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Fiji welcomed the youth to this momentous gathering.

A day earlier, more than 500 youth from six countries—the Caroline Islands, Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu Islands, Hawaii, and Fiji—arrived at the venue with radiant faces, greeting one another with warm enthusiasm. Mingling in their happy exchanges could be heard the diverse accents of Bislama, Japanese, Tagalog, and Yapese.

Workshop groups began by exploring the characteristics of this unique stage of their lives, the opportunities it affords, and the responsibilities it brings. The conference materials raised a number of important questions and discussions helped participants consider different ways of viewing their lives. As understanding crystallized they came to see reality as a coherent whole with various dimensions that complement and strengthen one another, rather than being comprised of separate parts which require a juggling act to balance. For example, one young woman shared that in the past, she felt she faced a choice between service and studies, but found that when she decided to intensify her efforts to be of service, her schoolwork improved as well.

Nadi, Fiji Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 08:13 AM   #6
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South Tarawa Youth Conference
Kiribati | 30 August - 1 September 2013

On 3 August to 1 September, over 800 youth from 17 islands gathered together in South Tarawa, the capital of the island nation of Kiribati. Scattered across 3.5 million square kilometers in the midst of the Pacific Ocean these coral atolls and islands have been populated for hundreds of years by Micronesians who have remained united by a common language.

Youth from the far-flung islands of Kiribati arrived in South Tarawa mostly by boat, with one group from the atoll of Kiritimati traveling over 3,000 kilometers for nine days in order to attend. The joy of being together for the first time was expressed by one youth in the following words: “It brought us great happiness that we came together from all the islands and it feels like a big family!”

On the first day, after devotions, participants broke into workshop groups and consulted on themes such as the responsibility they have to assist younger youth to cultivate spiritual qualities: “Young people are mines rich in gems of inestimable value, so we have the opportunity to assist them to realize their potential and become even better than our generation,” said one participant.

South Tarawa, Kiribati Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 08:14 AM   #7
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Brisbane Youth Conference
Australia | 14-16 September 2013

At a convention centre on the shores of the Brisbane River, 550 youth from Queensland and northern New South Wales gathered from 14 to 16 September for the first of three youth conferences to be held in Australia. The remarkable diversity of those present was notable—a diversity that was reflected in many languages in which prayers were recited during the morning sessions and by the variety of cultural dances that were performed in the evenings.

The opening session included an indigenous ceremonial dance by youth from Far North Queensland, paying their respects to the traditional elders of the area, and the day culminated with a prayer sung by participants from the Torres Strait Islands. During their workshop sessions, those gathered began their discussions about the characteristic desire of their age group to bring about constructive change in their communities, and explored ways in which they could assist the younger generations to direct their abilities towards selfless service to society. In their conversations, they spoke about the need to learn to see connections among the various aspects of life—–such as education, work, family and leisure—and foster a life revolving around service, in which all other dimensions complement each other. One youth said, “Service is not an additional component but an integral aspect of our daily lives.” While another participant shared, “All our decisions should be shaped by one idea: to make the world better than how we found it.”

Brisbane, Australia Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 08:15 AM   #8
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Milne Bay Youth Conference
Papua New Guinea | 20-22 September 2013

The valley of Aragip, the site of the second youth conference in Papua New Guinea, lies in the midst of the mountains in the remote interior of Milne Bay. The closest port of Sirisiri is a six-hour walk away, and the township of Alotau is another 10 hours away by boat and road transport. Yet almost 1,400 young people travelled for days to participate in the conference held on the grounds of a school in this valley from 20 to 22 September.

They came together to deepen their understanding and steel their resolve to walk a path of service to their communities, exploring questions such as “What is the role of youth in building a world civilization?” in the words of one participant from Alotau.

More than 1,000 community members—adults, younger youth, and children—took care of the conference logistics, ensuring that the multitude of participants had shelter, food, and all that was necessary for them to focus on their study of the conference materials. For days the local friends had worked together erecting makeshift sapling supported canvas shelters, a stage, pit latrines, and a mess hall for serving food. Villagers in and around Aragip emptied their gardens, filling up one of the storerooms at the school with produce.

Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 01:44 PM   #9
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Lae Youth Conference
Papua New Guinea | 26-29 September 2013

“How is it that you can arrive 15 minutes early to a session and still feel like you are running late?” asked one of the three Continental Counsellors representing the Universal House of Justice at the youth conference in Lae, Papua New Guinea. He then explained how at 8:15 a.m. every morning of the three-day youth conference, the representatives of the Universal House of Justice and the National Spiritual Assembly would enter the hall to find 620 youth already seated, singing songs, eager for the start of a new day of exploration of their role in contributing to the building of a new world. As one body they would respectfully stand while these guests found their seats. A glance up would reveal a panorama of beaming and expectant faces. He felt that “It was an imperishable bounty to witness that moment.” His impressions provide an insight into the spirit of the group of young people who gathered from 26 to 29 September to engage in conversations about the opportunities available to them as they strive to make their contribution to the betterment of their communities.

By land, air, and sea, youth from the Highlands, the outer Islands, and Momase regions of Papua New Guinea travelled to the second-largest city in the country to attend this historical gathering. In the months leading up to the conference, the youth made efforts to invite their peers, and found many willing to join them in striving to become active agents in a process that seeks to transform the spiritual and material condition of their neighbourhoods and villages.

Lae, Papua New Guinea Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 01:50 PM   #10
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Nuku’alofa Youth Conference
Tonga | 27-29 September 2013

On 8 February 2013, when the Universal House of Justice first called for the convocation of a series of youth conferences around the world, young people throughout the island-nation of Tonga learned that they were invited to travel to Nadi, Fiji, where the closest gathering would be held. Shortly after the initial announcement, the House of Justice wrote of the overwhelming response of young Bahá’ís and their friends, calling for additional conferences to accommodate the large numbers wishing to participate—a development “indicative of the magnitude of the reservoirs of energy and devotion that youth possess.” To the delight of the Tongan youth, one of the 19 additional locations was Nuku’alofa, where some 380 young people hailing from four major island groups came together from 27 to 29 September on the grounds of the Ocean of Light International School in Hofoa, a neighbourhood to the west of the city.

A large number in attendance were new to the conversation about striving to apply the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh to their individual and collective lives. “I decided to come to this conference because I believe in its purpose,” shared one, “and know it will be a useful experience for me to learn how to assist my community.”

Nuku'alofa, Tonga Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-09-2013, 01:08 PM   #11
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Perth Youth Conference
Australia | 4-6 October 2013

The youth conference in Perth, Australia, held from 4 to 6 October in a school on the banks of the Swan River, featured multiple languages, cultures, and artistic expressions, and welcomed youth of various ages and backgrounds. Over the course of three days, it provided a space for over 700 youth from the northern, southern, and western regions of Australia and from East Timor to focus on their shared desire to contribute to the betterment of their communities and to build a common understanding of the role of their generation.

The opening plenary session was imbued with a spirit of consecration and excitement, as various cultural songs and dances were shared including a welcome by Noongar friends from South-Western Australia and a dance from representatives of East Timor. Throughout the weekend, study of the conference materials raised the consciousness of those gathered regarding themes such as the influence that positive and negative social forces have on each generation and the way in which today’s youth can assist those younger than themselves to overcome the various social ills that they encounter. As participants shared experiences and insights, confidence and a spirit of profound joy developed. One youth from East Timor said, “We are learning how to work together, to continue hand in hand to bring this message to the world. I am so happy to know that it’s not just me. It’s not just East Timor and it’s not just Australia. It’s youth all around the globe who are trying to heal this world for the next generation.” Discussions flowed into the breaks as friends shared their experiences of collaborating with younger youth.

Perth, Australia Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-11-2013, 01:22 PM   #12
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Sydney Youth Conference
Australia | 4-6 October 2013

A spirit of enthusiasm, vibrant energy and joy characterized all three days of the youth conference held in Sydney, Australia from 4-6 October, releasing a powerful sense of purpose and responsibility for the 1,400 young people who had arisen to the call of the Universal House of Justice and came together to consult about their role in contributing to the betterment of the world.

From a multitude of diverse backgrounds and communities the youth gathered at the campus of the University of New South Wales, not far from the Bahá’í House of Worship. Through intense study of the conference materials and by the mere fact of being such a large group focussed on a common goal to serve humanity, they were able to grasp a sense of their collective power to foster an encouraging and uplifting environment, one that invites the participation of great numbers. Interspersed with their study, participants found creative ways of expressing their insights and sharing concepts through different art forms. A constant stream of newly composed songs and poetry filled the campus grounds with the happy notes of music and laughter, as artistic expressions conveying the participants’ increasing clarity around their common purpose were shared. Their excitement at the possibilities for action opening before them was infectious. In such an atmosphere, friendships were strengthened and formed in which the will to advance on a path of service together was ignited. “I can feel an energy that is coming out of each room, that we are developing friendships with people who we can plan and serve together with,” shared one youth, adding, “I see how important it is to create an environment of mutual support for any activity to grow.”

Sydney, Australia Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
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