Kigoma Youth Conference

Tanzania | 13-15 September 2013

Kigoma is a town located in western Tanzania surrounded by lush mountainous terrain. It is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, one in a series of lakes along the East African valley which contains some of the oldest, largest, and deepest waters in the world. On 13 September, over 1,200 young people, some of whom had travelled for more than twenty-four hours, arrived at the Kigoma youth conference and received a warm welcome from the representatives of the Universal House of Justice, members of the Continental Board of Counsellors Townshend Omemu Lihanda and Amina Jaouane, who encouraged the youth to arise to work for the transformation of society and commit themselves to a life of service to humankind.

Each day began with a devotional period of prayers and quotations from the Bahá’í writings, and then participants divided into groups based on the regions that they had come from, to study and discuss the conference themes in light of local contexts.

“If we want to achieve lasting change, we have to work together”

A participant at the conference

The participants explored in great depth the importance of walking a path of service in the company of others and reflected on the qualities and attitudes needed to advance together in service to society. “If we want to achieve lasting change, we have to work together. There are special qualities that bind the community together, such as unity and cooperation,” one young person said. “If we want to have a unified vision, we have to cooperate with others, be generous with our time and share what we know with humility,” said another. Many of the participants recognized humility as an essential virtue, not only for their own learning and spiritual development, but also for attracting others to join in their community-building efforts. As one young man stated: “I have learned that we must be humble about the knowledge that we possess and use the times when we don’t know as an opportunity to learn. I have also learned that we should try to share our insights in a way that invites others to contribute to the consultation.”

Lively artistic presentations included songs and dances based on the concepts studied in the conference materials and helped the participants to consolidate and deepen their understanding. The artistic presentations not only reflected a high energy and joyfulness synonymous with the youthfulness of those gathered, and which pervaded all three days of the conference, but they also demonstrated a particularly mature grasp of what is needed to transform their societies both spiritually and materially.

After watching Frontiers of Learning, a video demonstrating the efforts of four communities around the world to contribute to the advancement of their people, some of the young people remarked on the active participation of the women. One girl said, “In my country, often I saw that the women didn’t have a voice but their role is important here too.” Another insight gleaned from the video was how meaningful service at the centre of peoples’ lives enhanced all the other areas, and the sooner they adjusted their lives accordingly, the sooner they and their communities would see the benefits. “Initially the idea of studying, performing excellent in the class and excelling was the main focus of my life, and I planned to serve later. But now I realize I cannot wait that long. I need to start now. The best I can do for others, let me do it now.”

No longer conflicted about whether to devote their time to studies, family, work, or service, and galvanized by the call of the Universal House of Justice to arise at this time of their lives, the youth departed from the conference eager to return to their homes and begin implementing the next stage of their community-building plans.

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  • Participants arrive at the conference venue

  • Devotional periods at the beginning of each session assisted in creating an atmosphere of reverence

  • Over 1,200 youth from Tanzania attended the gathering

  • Participants studied the conference materials which focused on themes such as the role of youth and assisting in the advancement of civilization

  • Youth made maps of their neighbourhoods to consult about their plans

  • Music and the arts were a large component of the conference, bringing joy to all those who participated

  • A group photo of the participants

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