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Old 10-03-2013, 09:37 AM   #1
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Youth Conferences in North America (reports)



Montreal Youth Conference
Canada | 5-7 July 2013

On a scorching hot day, over 200 youth gathered at John Abbot College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, a town located at the western tip of the Island of Montreal. It was among the first in a series of youth conferences to be held around the world over the course of the next four months. Young people hailing from the Atlantic Provinces, Nunavut, and the Quebec regions of Canada, gathered to consult on themes including the unique role of youth, fostering mutual support, and contributing to the advancement of civilization.

It is difficult to imagine the challenges faced by the inhabitants of Nunavut—the northernmost territory of Canada—when planning a visit to a neighbouring community. It was a source of great joy, therefore, that four youth from that region were able to attend the conference. One shared his experience in making the journey south to Montreal: “to get here you can find a whale and hang on, you can swim, or you can just take a plane and fly”. Deciding to fly, he called the local airline on the day of the conference to see if he could get a reduced rate––the only way it would be possible for him to attend. When he explained the purpose of the conference he received a significant discount, and two hours later he was on the plane.

Montreal, Canada Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:38 AM   #2
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San José Youth Conference
Costa Rica | 5-7 July 2013

After months of preparation, the excitement of the more than 500 youth from Costa Rica, Panama, and Puerto Rico present at the youth conference could be felt throughout the gymnasium of a school in Santa Ana, near the capital city of San José. Meeting new faces from neighbouring countries and hearing their experiences, the participants caught a glimpse of the global conversation in which they are engaged along with the youth attending other conferences. Continental Counsellors Ronny Brenes and Bernardino Sánchez addressed the participants as representatives of the Universal House of Justice.

Many youth had made extraordinary efforts to attend the conference. A large group from Panama travelled for more than two days, having to wait at the border for 10 hours, and arrived at their destination just a few hours before the start of the conference. They were warmly welcomed by their peers from Costa Rica and Puerto Rico and despite the fatigue, they eagerly began consulting about the contribution that youth can make for the transformation of their communities.

San José, Costa Rica Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:41 AM   #3
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Bridgetown Youth Conference
Barbados | 12-14 July 2013

Youth participants from 11 national communities in the Caribbean—of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds—gathered together in Bridgetown, Barbados, for the first of three youth conferences to be held in the region.

Over 250 young people from the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Virgin Islands came together in an atmosphere full of excitement to consult on their role in contributing to the life of their communities. “I think it is really great to see all of the countries cooperating even though we don’t know each other,” shared one youth from Jamaica on the first day, “I have been talking to people and we don’t even speak the same language.”

In such a diverse environment, the unity of all gathered served as a potent reminder of both the purpose and the importance of the community-building work they are engaged in. A young man from the Bahamas, when reflecting on the efforts of his group of friends noted that “a lot of our efforts are about unity. Our group in the Bahamas has some Bahá’ís and some Christians, but if you didn’t point them out you wouldn’t see the difference. As we go around offering service we bring more people in. I guess the service is bringing unity.”

Bridgetown, Barbados Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:42 AM   #4
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Chicago Youth Conference
United States | 13-15 July 2013

Just over 100 years ago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá completed his six-day visit to Chicago, in the heartland of the United States. From 13 to 15 July, close to 500 youth, alive to the vision of Bahá’u’lláh, which was shared so generously by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with the people of Chicago over a century ago, gathered at the Schaumburg Conference Centre to consult on the role each generation plays in helping to contribute in positive ways to the advancement of civilization. The diversity of participants, from across six states, reflected the hope that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá expressed during his stay there, that humanity could come to recognize itself as members of one human family, working together for the good of all.

The spirit of collective action animated the efforts of the youth even before the conference began, as one large group rented a bus and travelled together from their home state.

Each session opened with song, and in such an atmosphere, imbued with joy and excitement, the participants met in large and small workshop groups to reflect on themes of friendship, the period of youth, the positive and negative social forces in their environments, and the role of knowledge in empowering individuals and communities.

Chicago, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:43 AM   #5
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Durham (Raleigh) Youth Conference
United States | 19-21 July 2013

Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are three cities bordering one another in North Carolina, in the United States, known together as “The Triangle”. It was in the city of Raleigh that more than 230 youth from the Southeastern United States and Bermuda assembled at the convention centre for the start of their three day youth conference on July 18.

The arrival of groups of youth lit up the venue with enthusiasm and joy, often expressed through music and song. Throughout the conference, participants could be heard singing on their way to workshops, in the lunch hall, and after plenary sessions. In corners and corridors, groups of youth often gathered to drum, play guitar and sing together, learning songs from one another’s regions or creating new music reflective of the insights gleaned from their consultations. One participant observed that even the hotel staff would often stop to listen to the youth sing, smiles brightening their faces, sharing in the excitement of their guests.

As the youth reflected on the high sense of purpose that shapes their collective and individual action, one participant shared, “We are all diverse in our backgrounds and lives, but we are unified by our desire to serve Baha’u’llah’s vision.”

Durham (Raleigh), United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:45 AM   #6
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Aguascalientes Youth Conference
Mexico | 19-21 July 2013

Youth from over 20 states spanning all of the regions in Mexico made great efforts to attend the youth conference held on a ranch some 25 kilometres north of the city of Aguascalientes. For some, preparations had begun months earlier, with efforts to raise money for transportation to the conference so that as many youth as possible would be able to attend. The majority of the participants travelled to the conference by bus, many having journeyed for almost 30 hours.

The enthusiasm, energy and eagerness of the youth were demonstrated early on when, a day before the conference was due to start, the arid land of Aguascalientes received a rain that flooded two out of the three large tents assembled to facilitate the study sessions, meals and sleeping arrangements. Everyone rushed to brave the water and mud, rescuing suitcases and sleeping bags while digging trenches to detour the course of streaming water. Finally, they gathered in the remaining dry tent, forming circles to sing and dance!

After this unexpected prelude, 320 youth listened as the conference was opened with a warm welcome from a 24-year-old member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico. Sessions in smaller groups of around 50 youth followed shortly afterwards, where there was focused study and discussion about the nature of the unique period of adolescence and youth, along with the ways in which they can contribute towards the construction of a better world.

Aguascalientes, Mexico Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:47 AM   #7
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Boston Youth Conference
United States | 19-21 July 2013

They arrived in waves. The energy was palpable as busload after busload of youth entered the conference venue, smiling and sometimes cheering in expression of their excitement and joy. 550 conference participants, from across the Northeastern United States, gathered at the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay, a tree-lined Boston neighbourhood characterized by remaining 19th century architecture.

The conference was marked with a unity of purpose, commitment to collective learning, and an attitude of consecration as the participants gathered in groups by region and neighbourhood to study and reflect on themes including the capacity of the younger generation to contribute to social progress, the spiritual qualities and attitudes that can be developed through service to others, and the implications of Bah‎á’u’lláh’s teachings on the life of a community.

One of the participants shared his hope, “I want to use my life as an experience for kids. I want to speak to them; I want to keep them away from doing drugs. I want to tell them, ‘There has to be a purpose for you in life’.”

Boston, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:48 AM   #8
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Phoenix Youth Conference
United States | 19-21 July 2013

Before the backdrop of a poster painted by youth from the Navajo nation, a moving Persian chant marked the opening of the youth conference in Phoenix, United States, evoking a unity of all mankind that the participants are strengthening through acts of service in their communities.

About 800 youth from Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah gathered at the conference to consult about how they could contribute to the progress of their communities.

Continental Counsellors Sonlla Heern and Navid Serrano represented the Universal House of Justice at the gathering. Mr. Serrano described how the youth were carrying on a conversation about how to build a better world—a conversation that started with the revolutionizing message of the Báb, a young man of just 25 years of age. Although the participants were from many different backgrounds, he said, they all hoped to learn about the same question: how will we serve humanity?

Phoenix, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:49 AM   #9
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Toronto Youth Conference
Canada | 26-28 July 2013

To every generation is given a moment. And the moment came into focus for over 1,000 youth from Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan on July 26 in Toronto, as they gathered from across the region for the three days of the youth conference.

As the youth discussed the ways in which service to humanity provides opportunities for individual growth as well as developing capacity to contribute to social progress, examples from personal experiences were shared. One youth reflected on participating in a neighbourhood program for younger youth: “As we grow older, we are going to change, and the program for younger youth is helping us through those changes... It helps us bond spiritually with others and accomplish our noble goals.”

Another participant shared reflections during the plenary session on the ways in which serving her neighbourhood has helped her to grow: “I’ve learned the importance of developing spiritual qualities like humility; I’ve learned that I’m not the most important person in the world. I am so glad that my friends from my neighbourhood invited me to be a part of this. I feel I am walking closer to God. And when I serve Him, I feel an abundance of blessings.”

Toronto, Canada Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:50 AM   #10
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Port-au-Prince Youth Conference
Haiti | 26-28 July 2013

Like a heartbeat, the constant rhythm of drums echoed the soaring spirits of the participants collaborating at the youth conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 26-28 July. Across the bay from rising mountain slopes, the remaining scars of the devastating earthquake of January 2010 are no longer evident, but nearly 500,000 people are still living in temporary camps and shelters.

The conference was held at a school that was still under construction, with organizers making their own arrangements for electricity, accommodations, catering, toilets and showers, months in advance. Spiritual preparations also began months earlier as youth formed groups to study the teachings of Bahá‘u’lláh and began applying them in service to the community.

Together, the 140 young participants from the Dominican Republic and 340 from Haiti gathered in this beautiful setting and thoughtfully considered how they could help individuals, families and institutions in their cities and villages work together for the welfare of those living both in their own, and neighboring communities. They recognized that this process of community building seeks to develop the capacity of every human group to contribute to the advancement of civilization, irrespective of background.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:51 AM   #11
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Oakland Youth Conference
United States | 26-28 July 2013

On 7 October 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith—addressed a group gathered at the Japanese Independent Church in Oakland, California, during his historic eight-month journey through the North American continent. “Ye must shine as stars radiating the light of love toward all mankind,” he told them, wishing that they “become the cause of love amongst the nations.”

Just across the San Francisco Bay, some 100 years later, over 550 young people from Northern California gathered at the Hyatt Regency hotel to deepen their understanding of that vision, one of true friendship and of service to their communities. The youth, of different backgrounds and experiences yet united in aim, opened their deliberations with prayers in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. The prayers were recited and sung to the music of guitar, ukulele, and violin. Two large murals, painted by youth from nearby Watsonville, flanked the stage and helped to create an atmosphere of joyful optimism that was to permeate the conference for the next three days: to the left, the depiction of a young person engaged in a service project with the caption, “How can there be movement without action? The stage is set to move the world”; to the right, a happy family, with an excerpt from a prayer of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—“In the darksome night of despair, my eye turneth expectant and full of hope to the morn of Thy boundless favor….”

Oakland, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:52 AM   #12
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Seattle Youth Conference
United States | 26-28 July 2013

Nestled between snow peaked mountains and the Pacific Ocean, on the coast of the Northwest United States, 500 youth gathered at the Seattle youth conference to consult on the ways in which they could engage hundreds of others in a conversation about how individuals and communities can apply the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith to their everyday lives. In an atmosphere at once serious and uplifting, the conference participants spent three days together, a period that would prove pivotal in their understanding and vision of how to improve their communities.

At the beginning of a workshop session, youth from the Nez Perce indigenous community in Lapwai, Idaho, taught other participants a traditional dance often shared at powwows in which a diverse group of people from various tribes join one another to celebrate. The spirit of unity among participants was palpable, and the joy, energy and thoughtful discussions that characterized the gathering attracted even the staff from the venue. One member of the staff, a mother of seven, asked that they be registered for a children's class in her community. Two other young men also working at the venue were so moved by the spirit of the conference that they decided to learn together how to serve the younger youth in their neighbourhood.

Seattle, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:53 AM   #13
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San Salvador Youth Conference
El Salvador | 2-4 August 2013

Set on a hilly terrain and nestled between the Balsam Mountain Range and the El Boquerón volcano, the city of San Salvador welcomed some 650 youth from Belize, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua who, answering the invitation of the Universal House of Justice, gathered to discuss their role in the development of their communities.

In the months leading up to the conference, great effort was exerted to meet and invite youth interested in contributing to the well-being of their communities. Some raised funds by making baked goods to sell; the adults, hearts captured by such sincere efforts, contributed more than was needed, creating a surplus towards the community-building activities that had inspired the youth to attend in the first place. This support continued as participants made their way to the conference. One father travelled hours by motorcycle to sign papers authorizing his daughter to exit the country.

On the first morning, participants were seated in the hall ready for the programme an hour before it was to start. Youth from each country were welcomed with open arms, greeting each other with applause and cheers during the opening session. Counsellor Ana Hilda Zepeda de Lemus, one of two representatives of the Universal House of Justice, reminded the participants that many are looking to transform society, and that each person is faced with a crucial decision: how will I contribute to this transformation?

San Salvador, El Salvador Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:54 AM   #14
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Vancouver Youth Conference
Canada | 3-5 August 2013

“I desire for you eternal success and prosperity,” are the opening words of a Tablet addressed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in 1916 to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, “and beg perfect confirmation for each one in the divine world. My hope for you is that each one may shine forth like unto the morning star from the horizon of the world and in this Garden of God become a blessed tree, producing everlasting fruits and results.”

Filling a gymnasium at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, were about 770 young people, from Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon in Canada and from Alaska in the United States, who had gathered to consult about how they could contribute more devotedly to the needs of their communities. They had come in groups by bus, car, ferry, and plane, and some combined several of these modes of transport. One group from Alberta arranged for a bus to travel from Calgary to Vancouver, and to pick up youth along the way. The 1,000-kilometre journey was long, with some delays, but filled with entertaining stories and heart-warming songs shared by both the travellers and the bus driver.

Each morning, an uplifting devotional programme set the stage for a full day of study, consultation, and planning. Some key themes from the conference deliberations included the power of language, the need for society to advance both materially and spiritually, and the broadening of opportunities when one dedicates a significant period of time to serving one’s community. Embedded in each of these themes was an increased awareness of the critical role of assisting one another: “You can’t get anywhere when you’re not supporting each other,” shared one 15-year-old from White Rock, adding that “for almost anything you do in life, you need someone to help you.”

Vancouver, Canada Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:55 AM   #15
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Atlanta Youth Conference
United States | 9-11 August 2013

“We are in a time of darkness and need to act as a light,” a young woman shared with peers who were reflecting on the role of the younger generation in contributing to social and spiritual progress while gathered at the youth conference in Atlanta, Georgia, from 9 to 11 August.

Assembled at the Marquis Hotel on a humid summer day in the southeastern United States, over 650 young people of diverse backgrounds from Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Georgia listened intently to the 1 July 2013 message of the Universal House of Justice, hearts joyfully attracted to a vision of walking a path of service with others in the development of their communities.

A sense of being entrusted with a sacred mission enveloped the participants as Continental Counsellor Borna Noureddin, one of the representatives of the Universal House of Justice at the conference, encouraged them to examine their circumstances and think about how they could devote a period of their lives to providing spiritual education to the rising generations. A song from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá shared by one group brought a sense of urgency: “Soon will our handful of days, our vanishing life, be gone … Now is the time to serve. Now is the time to be on fire.”

Atlanta, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:56 AM   #16
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Dallas Youth Conference
United States| 9-11 August 2013

In the midst of a typically hot Texan summer, with temperatures at their peak, some 500 youth from Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas gathered in a hotel in Dallas, filling its conference rooms with the warmth of the Southern spirit. They came together to consult on their contributions towards creating strong communities in which the spiritual and material well-being of all are nurtured.

Continental Counsellors Daniel Scott and Ganesh Ramsahai represented the Universal House of Justice at this gathering. On the opening morning of the conference, after Mr. Ramsahai read the 1 July message of the Universal House of Justice to the gathering, Mr. Scott expressed his great sense of gratitude to be at the conference, noting the confidence the Universal House of Justice has in the youth to arise and dedicate their time and talents to the application of the principles and Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh so as to contribute to the emergence of a better world. He reflected that a theme of many of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talks in North America was a necessary harmony between the material and spiritual, noting that we are conscious that human beings are not only physical and social; they are fundamentally spiritual beings with an innate yearning to search for meaning and truth. Mr. Scott stated that achieving a better world requires us to strengthen our spiritual nature and develop the capacities given to us by an all-loving Creator, so we can use our talents towards serving the well-being of the community.

Dallas, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:57 AM   #17
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San Diego Youth Conference
United States | 9-11 August 2013

In a Tablet of February 1917 addressed to the Bahá’ís of the western states of America, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá drew parallels between the landscape of California—which he had seen during his travels through the state five years earlier—and that of the Holy Land. He commented on the similarity of their shores, mountains, and fertile soil, and, referring to the long history of divine educators that had inspired the people of the Holy Land, he emphasized that “just as there are natural resemblances, heavenly resemblances must also be acquired.”

Nearly 100 years later, some 700 young people, alive to this vision, gathered for three days at a convention centre in San Diego, in the same state of California in the United States, to discuss the contribution that their generation could make to the betterment of their communities. In an opening plenary address, Continental Counsellor Navid Serrano, who together with Dr. Holly Woodard represented the Universal House of Justice at the conference, made reference to the abovementioned Tablet and underscored the historic nature of their gathering—one of three youth conferences in California in July and August, and one of nine such events taking place that same weekend in locations around the world.

San Diego, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 09:59 AM   #18
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Minneapolis Youth Conference
United States | 16-18 August 2013

“This is a beautiful and radiant assemblage,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told a group meeting in a Minneapolis home when he visited there in September 1912. “It is a merciful gathering, for you have met here in the utmost love and spirituality.” At the conference held just outside that same city from 16 to 18 August, another generation tasted once again the sweetness of love, trust, and mutual support He had encouraged in them some 100 years earlier.

About 250 young people came together in the classically designed halls and expansive lawns of a local college, sharing a desire to learn how they could support an ever-widening circle of friends in efforts to serve their communities—particularly their youngest members.

Through study of the conference materials, participants recognized that those between the ages of 12 and 14 are making the critical transition from childhood to youth and are affected by many social forces, some constructive and some harmful. Participants identified that older youth have a responsibility to create environments that channel positive influences for their younger friends. “It makes me want to help them all the more,” one youth said.

Minneapolis, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 10:00 AM   #19
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Washington, D.C. Youth Conference
United States | 16-18 August 2013

In His travels to North America in 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited Washington, D.C. three times. He spoke at dozens of gatherings to hundreds of people; met with statesmen, inventors and leaders of thought; rich and poor, black and white. And with each and all He shared His depth of love for humanity and demonstrated how to live a coherent life of service. He also proclaimed that the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh would enable the diverse peoples of the world to come together in unity and love.

This truth was beautifully demonstrated when, from 16-18 August, over 700 young people from five states gathered just outside of Washington, D.C. to discuss how they could continue to build on a process so powerfully exemplified over a century earlier with the visit of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

In both plenary gatherings and in smaller workshop groups they studied and reflected on several themes, including the unique period of youth, how to assist those younger than themselves, and what contributions everyone can make in advancing their neighborhoods and communities.

Washington, D.C., United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 10:01 AM   #20
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Houston Youth Conference
United States | 23-25 August 2013

From 23 to 25 August, the city of Houston, United States, welcomed a group of 370 enthusiastic youth from Louisiana and Texas who gathered to explore the unique contribution their generation can make to assist in the material and spiritual advancement of their communities.

On the first day of the conference, after devotions were offered in English and Spanish, including beautiful renditions of the Bahá’í Writings set to music, those gathered broke into workshop groups. During one of the first sessions, they discussed how they could assist those younger than themselves in their moral and spiritual development. One participant reflected on the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who said that during adolescence our intellectual capacities “are trained and awakened”: “I think ‘awakened’ is a beautiful and important word. At this time of life we learn how to make decisions and to see with our own eyes.” Another participant commented that older youth had the unique opportunity to assist younger generations: “They are created noble and their ability to serve others will grow as we help them in their endeavours.”

In one workshop session, participants discussed how they could support and encourage each other as they make efforts to serve their communities. “Everyone has things they can do to contribute to society,” said a participant. Another commented on how negative habits such as criticism can be replaced by more constructive ones: “Rather than judging each other, we should make an effort to show our friendship and support.”

Houston, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
Old 10-03-2013, 10:01 AM   #21
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Los Angeles Youth Conference
United States | 31 August - 2 September 2013

“Your love drew me to you,” were the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in reference to his travel to California in the fall of 1912. On Friday, 18 October, He arrived in Los Angeles, and the next day gave His first public address in that city. He spoke of the relationship between spiritual and material civilization, saying, “If divine civilization, which is all-encompassing, is established, then material civilization will also attain perfection.”

On the beautiful campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, from 31 August to 2 September, more than 630 young people, inspired by the vision of progress described by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá some 100 years ago, gathered to explore themes related to the betterment of their communities. Recognizing the force of materialism so pronounced in their society, they were hopeful to find ways to dedicate their time and energy towards a community-building process, at the heart of which is a profound conversation about the application of Bahá’u’lláh’s Teachings for individual and collective life.

Those gathered explored the importance of assisting the rising generations to develop their capacities necessary for a life of service. A participant observed, “These concepts reinforce the truth that it is through service that we grow and are happy. Happiness doesn’t mean accumulating things, happiness means serving others.”

Los Angeles, United States Youth Conference - Bahá'í World News Service
 
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