More than 400 youth from the Central and Pacific regions in Colombia gathered in a school located on the outskirts of Cali to participate in the first of the youth conferences held in South America, and one of the first in the world. At the start of the conference, Mr. Daniel Duhart––a Continental Counsellor who represented the Universal House of Justice at the event along with Counsellor Carmen Elisa de Sadeghian––conveyed to the participants the love of the House of Justice for the youth and shared the hope that the discussions during the conference could generate actions aimed at improving the condition of the world.
Participants came from diverse backgrounds and with varying levels of experience, from the densely populated capital city to remote rural villages, travelling in groups or as individuals. The conference allowed each of them to build a common understanding of the characteristics that distinguish their age group and how the choices they make can contribute to constructive change in their communities. As they consulted on these themes and others, the energy and enthusiasm of those present increased.
“Society tells us that we should compete with each other but here we are saying the opposite, that if you know more or have more experience, you should support others.”
A youth from Colombia
In reflecting about how youth can enhance their ability to create an atmosphere of encouragement among themselves and in their communities, one of the participants expressed that “we should not think about ourselves, we should take joy in the joy of others and encourage each other.” Another participant was heard telling a friend: “I am going to assist you, no matter how many of us there are, because the strength of our friendship will contribute to the process of building a community.”
The youth had an opportunity to think deeply about how their understanding of the themes explored during the conference, such as what it means to assist younger generations, could be translated in service to their communities, and planned to undertake various activities upon their return home. In groups, they drew maps of their neighbourhoods and villages, analysed their needs and opportunities, and planned the next steps. For example, youth coming from Quinamayó decided to pair up and form groups for young people aged 12 to 14 in order to help these individuals to develop their moral, spiritual, and intellectual capacities. The representatives from the community of Alegrías, a village of about 2,000 inhabitants, wrote down the names of their closest friends and planned to invite them to a gathering where they would share the concepts discussed during the conference, and invite these friends to serve their communities alongside them.
Youth registering for the conference
The conference was an opportunity for the participants to reflect together about the contribution they can make to the spiritual and social development of their communities
Dances, songs, poems and dramatization enhanced the joyful spirit of the conference
The youth studied the message dated 1 July 2013 from the Universal House of Justice
Original artistic presentations were shared each day of the conference
The youth made maps of their neighbourhoods to consult about their plans of action
Devotional periods at the beginning of each session set the atmosphere of reflection for the consultations
Members of the National Spiritual Assembly and the Continental Board of Counsellors shared inspirational addresses with the participants
A group of youth from one of the regions represented at the conference engage in the study some the materials