Dar es Salaam, a city on the east coast of the African continent, means “home of peace”. It was fitting, then, that the youth conference opened with prayers and songs in the various languages represented: a choir group from Halungu, in the Mbeya region, performed songs about welcoming friends from different places, expressing that youth are those who, inspired by the vision of Bahá‘u’lláh, work on bringing love and peace in the world.
Every day buses started picking up participants from the Mabibo hostel at 5:00 a.m. By 7:20 a.m. the young people had already arrived at the University of Dar es Salaam campus. So eager and excited were they that by 8:30 a.m., everyone was seated in the auditorium and joyfully sang for the half hour before the first session started.
“There is a need to use our talents well to help transform our communities.”
A participant at the conference
As the 900 youth from throughout Tanzania shared their reflections with one another, they explained that service to those younger than themselves, as part of a wider community-building process, must include all generations. One participant commented, “In establishing the junior youth groups, we have to involve parents in the conversation.” Another workshop group recognized that part of their plan will require that they learn to enlist the support of many others in the community.
The consultations emphasized that the participants' high purpose in life can best be expressed by applying their God-given capacities in service to others. “There is a need to use our talents well to help transform our communities,” one youth said. In particular, they explored the need to align themselves with spiritual forces in order to contribute to lasting change. “In everything we do,” said one participant, “we must rely upon God so that we can be assisted to succeed.”
Through study of the materials, the participants increased their understanding of the capacities of young people. “I’ve learned so much about the period of youth from this conference. We have always been looking at junior youth in our community as children and thinking that there isn’t much they can do for the community,” one youth said, “but now I realize these junior youth can be educated and grow to contribute to community development.”
One participant, a young mother, shared an experience with her workshop participants that demonstrated the power of love to move members of a community to help one another, particularly its youngest members. She said, “I had a children’s class and there was one sick child in the group. I organized the class to take fruits to the sick child. Then when I delivered my baby, that same child brought a bunch of firewood as a gift and she came to see my newborn. I was so deeply touched.”
The afternoon tea breaks were frequently filled with drumming and songs in diverse languages, including Maasai and Bemba, as everyone expressed their joy through music. In the early mornings, as buses began to bring groups of youth from the nearby hostel to the conference venue, the participants enjoyed breakfast together, often with groups of youth singing, such as a koteti—a group of four youth harmonizing together. As the conference concluded one youth’s comment seemed to sum up what so many had experienced: “Before this gathering I did not know exactly how I could be of service to others,” he said, “but the conference has inspired and provided me with some useful insights that I can use in serving my community.”
Young people of all ages came together to consult on how to better serve their communities
The participants warmly welcomed the attendees from each region as they were announced
Youth listened thoughtfully to each other as they consulted in workshops
Discussions began in large groups and then broke into smaller ones in order to explore the ideas in lightof their local circumstances
Friendships were strengthened and new ones were formed
Songs and dances from different cultures were shared
Creative arts were also used to explore the conference themes
Drumming enlivened the artistic presentations
A joyful spirit imbued the atmosphere
Groups of friends consulted on their ongoing efforts to better their communities
A photo of the conference participants