The first annual Youth Conference of the Assyrian Church of the East, Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon has been hailed as a success, after taking place in Sydney, Australia from 5-8 July 2012.
The conference, held under the theme ‘Youth Arise!’ (Tlayeh Qoum), was held following more than a year of detailed planning by the Youth Conference Subcommittee, and with the blessings of His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia AM Metropolitan. The committee, with the strength from God, worked diligently to bring the conference to fruition. The Metropolitan See of Sydney played host to more than 120 young people from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Delegates arrived and registered for the beginning of the four-day event. In the evening, a welcoming night was held at St. Hurmizd Assyrian Primary School with HB Mar Meelis Zaia as the guest of honour and eight parish priests from Sydney and Melbourne. The highlight of the function was the screening of a specially recorded message from His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch, who bestowed his apostolic blessings upon the delegates and prayed for the success of the conference. “It was such an honour to receive a personal message from His Holiness. A great way to get the conference started,” said one attendee.
Also airing that night was a short film, Taleetha Qoum, directly linked to the theme of the conference. The committee decided to direct and produce this film to give all participants a visual message of Christ saving sinners of all kind. “I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I was drawn to the movie and when it ended, I had tears in my eyes. It touched us all. It got the message across”.
In his keynote address, HB Mar Meelis Zaia discussed the increasing pressure that secularism is having on the Christian faith in modern society and the diminishing role of the family unit within this society. His Beatitude encouraged the delegates to be thankful to God for the opportunities given to them as citizens of democratic societies where few obstacles are present to actively participate and succeed in civic society whether in the religious, educational, social or political sectors.
The night came to an end with some light refreshments and Assyrian dancing. “I’ve been to many conferences in the past, this welcoming night was the best I have ever been to”.
The conference commenced with the consecration of the Eucharistic Liturgy by Rev. Father Narsai Youkhanis at St. Hurmizd Cathedral. During the remainder of the second day the delegates participated in a series of educational seminars given by clergy and faithful of the Holy Church. These successful sessions explored the theology, history, sacraments and moral teachings of the Assyrian Church of the East as well as the history of the Assyrian people. Session topics were: ‘The Assyrians’, ‘How did the Assyrians become a Christian Nation?’, ‘Choosing the World or Christ’, ‘Mysteries of the Church’, ‘Relationships’ and ‘A History of the Church of the East in India’.
The second day of the conference concluded with 120 attendees enjoying a scenic cruise along Sydney Harbour. Boarding the cruise at 8pm, the delegates enjoyed three hours of food, fun and dancing. A special surprise was also organised by the committee for individuals celebrating their birthdays throughout the duration of the conference. “I have been to many cruise parties in the past, but this was the best I have ever been to. Everyone was so friendly and the night was a great success”.
The remainder of the sessions continued on the following day. At the conclusion of all classes, the attendees all gathered together wearing their Youth Conference shirts and proudly took to the stage to smile for a group photo.
The day ended with a large group dinner aimed to enhance fellowship and interaction between the faithful in a Christian spirit and environment. “We took over the entire restaurant, but the staff enjoyed our company. Everyone returned to the bus with full stomachs and stronger friendships”.
The conference’s final day commenced with all delegates attending the Eucharistic Liturgy at St. Hurmizd Cathedral in Sydney’s west. The Liturgy was consecrated by HB Mar Meelis Zaia and fell on the Commemoration of the late Mar Yosip Khnanisho, Metropolitan of Iraq.
The offering of the Holy Qurbana was followed by a formal breakfast where HB Mar Meelis Zaia presented medallions to all participants. “We were all so excited to receive our medallions, having heard about them so much. However, our excitement increased when we discovered His Beatitude would individually present each medallion and take a photo with us. It was such a rewarding experience”.
The ending of the conference was celebrated by a casual BBQ held at St. Hurmizd Assyrian Primary School, where friends and family of participants could attend. “Everyone had a great time, said their goodbyes and collected their belongings and left. The conference was a great success and we look forward to attending future conferences”.[nggallery id=391]