South Tarawa Youth Conference

Kiribati | 30 August - 1 September 2013

On 30 August to 1 September, over 800 youth from 17 islands gathered together in South Tarawa, the capital of the island nation of Kiribati. Scattered across 3.5 million square kilometers in the midst of the Pacific Ocean these coral atolls and islands have been populated for hundreds of years by Micronesians who have remained united by a common language.

Youth from the far-flung islands of Kiribati arrived in South Tarawa mostly by boat, with one group from the atoll of Kiritimati traveling over 3,000 kilometers for nine days in order to attend. The joy of being together for the first time was expressed by one youth in the following words: “It brought us great happiness that we came together from all the islands and it feels like a big family!”

“Now I realize that service should be at the center of my life.”

A participant at the conference

On the first day, after devotions, participants broke into workshop groups and consulted on themes such as the responsibility they have to assist younger youth to cultivate spiritual qualities: “Young people are mines rich in gems of inestimable value, so we have the opportunity to assist them to realize their potential and become even better than our generation,” said one participant.

In another workshop the youth discussed the notion of false choices, such as thinking they must decide between serving and studying, as though the two are mutually exclusive. “I used to think my schooling was more important and I would find ways to serve when my studies were finished,” one young woman explained. While another youth said: “Now I realize that service should be at the center of my life.”

Throughout the weekend, after meals and between workshop sessions, the youth danced and sang songs, many of which were based on the themes they were studying. As their understanding deepened the youth were moved to prepare skits and present them in the plenary gatherings. In one example, a group of five young people, who represented different aspects of life such as work, family, and friendship, stood in a circle and held on to a youth in the middle who represented service. The presentation showed how service can bind different aspects of our lives together and help to ensure a healthy balance.

The participants also discussed how to find ways to promote the well-being of their communities regardless of the circumstances in their lives. For example, one young man shared that he has wondered how he can raise a family and also participate in community-building activities. After viewing a portion of the film Frontiers of Learning, he was inspired by the example of a woman from Colombia who managed to care for her young child while continuing to serve with dedication.

On the last day of the conference as the youth prepared to return home, they gathered for the final plenary session. In a melody, both joyful and tender, all 800 youth intoned together the words of a Bahá'í prayer which reflected the depth of their commitment to develop spiritual qualities and to assist in the transformation of their communities:

“O Thou the Compassionate God. Bestow upon me a heart which, like unto glass, may be illumined with the light of Thy love, and confer upon me thoughts which may change this world into a rose garden through the outpourings of heavenly grace.”


  • Many of the participants prepared months in advance by memorizing prayers, studying the messages of the Universal House of Justice and inviting their friends to work together to find ways to serve their communities
  • While discussing the theme of mutual support and encouragement, one youth reflected on how he and his friends can help each other to work toward a common goal: “I now realize that I am not alone and that we should encourage each other to arise and serve together”
  • The youth were so engaged in discussing the conference themes that they often skipped their tea breaks in order to continue studying
  • The 800 conference participants represent approximately 2% of the Kiribati population between the ages of 15-30


  • The conference was held in South Tarawa, the capital of the island nation of Kiribati

  • The youth intensely studied the message dated 1 July 2013 from the Universal House of Justice

  • The understanding of the materials was enhanced by creative expression through the arts

  • Participants consulted on how they can assist those younger than themselves to contribute to the well-being of their communities

  • Friends gathered to share songs and learn new ones during the breaks between sessions

  • A group of youth from one of the islands engages in astudy of the materials

  • Youth studied, consulted, and planned together

  • Many youth shared cultural presentations during the conference

  • One group shared a song inspired by the conference materials during an evening program

  • Some participants rehearse a skit they plan to present in a plenary session

  • Participants reflect on one of the sections of the material together

  • A group photo of the conference participants

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