Cartagena de Indias Youth Conference

Colombia | 5-7 October 2013

“What we have learned here should not just stay with us. It needs to be shared with other youth so they can also put it into practice,” said one young participant at the youth conference in Cartagena de Indias, reflecting the importance of engaging many more in the process of community building well under way in their neighbourhoods and villages.

Cartagena, one of the largest and most historic cities in Colombia, is built on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. It was there, from 5 to 7 October, that more than 700 young people from Venezuela and the Caribbean Coast region of Colombia gathered to explore how they could contribute to creating a better world.

“On the path of service we will always walk at different speeds. Some will go ahead of others, but we must always look back and not let that person who is walking with us fall behind. With love and patience we should help them walk that path of service.”

A participant at the conference

Participants had been preparing for months to attend the conference in Cartagena, the last of the gatherings in the Americas. Some youth visited friends and studied the 8 February 2013 message of the Universal House of Justice and, in doing so, reflected on the role of young people in contributing to the advancement of civilization. Others raised funds to attend the conference by making and selling lunches and Colombian sweets in their community. Youth from Capuré, in the Amazon region of eastern Venezuela, travelled down the Orinoco River by boat, followed by a 17-hour bus trip to the city of Barquisimeto in central-west Venezuela before continuing on to Cartagena. Their entire trip took three days.

The opening of the conference was characterized by a profound sense of gratitude and joy. In discussing the high purpose that shapes the actions of their generation, and in particular the role of knowledge in the building of a new society, one participant shared: “I used to learn things only for my own personal enrichment, but after studying these new ideas, I’ve decided to use my knowledge to serve my community.”

Participants also explored the concept of walking a path of service with others, identifying qualities and attitudes they need to advance together to assist in the development of society. It was clear that the nature of a conversation among friends could influence understanding and motivation. One person asked: “How can we help someone else walk on a path of service with us? We must make an effort to ensure that our conversations are meaningful by talking about themes that will assist the progress of our communities.” In reflecting about the way in which friends can assist one another to see the various aspects of their life as part of a coherent whole, one young woman shared her experience: “Studying in university requires a lot of time … I felt tired and no longer wanted to do any service activities. But I finally realized that it was important to do so, and my friends supported me. When I was available they were also available. That way I managed to organize my time at school and also offer time for service which gave me more energy for my studies. I’ve learned that assisting in the progress of the community facilitates our own progress.”

How to foster loving fellowship, mutual encouragement and a willingness to learn together was also discussed by the youth. They concluded that inviting others to serve is the highest expression of friendship and that the nature of this process requires the participation of all. One youth explained, “On the path of service we will always walk at different speeds. Some will go ahead of others, but we must always look back and not let that person who is walking with us fall behind. With love and patience we should help them walk that path of service.”

“When I get back home I will share with others what I have learned with no fear of the challenges or obstacles that might come before me,” said one participant, giving voice to the confidence that was shared by those at the conference. Invigorated and charged with a renewed determination to help their communities advance and invite more of their peers into the conversation, the youth eagerly set out for their homes.

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  • Continental Counsellors Carmen Elisa de Sadeghian and Pejman Samoori represented the Universal House of Justice at 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

  • Discussions began in large groups and then broke into smaller ones in order to explore the ideas in light of local realities

  • Group sessions involved time for study, reflection, and the sharing of experiences

  • Youth from the same communities gathered to consult and plan together

  • Groups took turns sharing the fruits of their consultations

  • The arts were seamlessly incorporated into the workshop sessions and some presentations were shared during evening plenaries

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