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.

“The process of serving our community is about the spiritual empowerment of everyone. ...It starts in the family and grows from there.”

A participant at the conference

While discussing how to enhance an environment of mutual support and encouragement, as well as ways in which this dynamic allows for many to collaborate in nurturing the well-being of their communities, the conference participants gained insights through analyzing marriage and family life. They observed that when a couple is unified in their efforts to serve others, this becomes a force of attraction and a means by which more families can become involved, affecting the social, material and spiritual nature of the community itself. One participant stated, “The process of serving our community is about the spiritual empowerment of everyone. ...It starts in the family and grows from there.”

Skits, poetry and songs brought vibrancy to the evening arts sessions. These expressions of the youth conveyed both their sense of sacredness and reverence for the Words of God, and the excitement and energy of the gathering. After watching the film Frontiers of Learning, the participants shared their reflections about how they could coherently orient all aspects of their lives—friends, family, studies, work—towards selfless service with others. One young mother commented on how heartening it was to see that one of the individuals serving her community in Cali, Colombia was also a mother. Another shared the way in which the examples highlighted in the film affected his perception of his decisions: “I’ve been starting to hold myself accountable and realizing that sacrifice and service to others has not been something I have prioritized in my life… I see a shift here in the conversations within my group, and I am now really excited to give more time to serving my community.”

As the last afternoon of the conference arrived, the youth with resolve, deepened understanding, strengthened bonds of friendship, clarity of vision, and all of the hope in their hearts, began their journey home; eager to face the tasks ahead and play their part in humanity’s unfolding destiny.

Return to top
  • In small groups youth studied the conference materials

  • The conference was filled with both purposeful discussion and joyful fellowship

  • Music was shared throughout the weekend, bringing joy to all those who participated

  • Youth were encouraged to share the insights from their workshops in the plenary gatherings

  • The study of the materials was enhanced by creative expression to delve into concepts

  • Thoughtful discussions during the conference included the critical role youth have to play in contributing to the betterment of their communities

  • Drawing maps of their neighbourhoods helped participants to consult about their plans of action

  • Groups of youth gathered to play songs in areas that overlooked the city of Seattle

  • There was time for both thoughtful and casual conversations throughout the weekend

  • The conference was an opportunity for the participants to reflect together about the contribution they can make to those younger than themselves

  • Original artistic presentations were shared each day of the conference

Return to top