National Syro-Malabar Youth conference: Unite 2024

The Syro-Malabar Youth Movement (SMYM) hosted its much-anticipated conference, Unite 2024, at El Rancho, Waikanae Beach, 2–5 February.

WelCom April 2024

Ann Gibu Joseph

The Syro-Malabar Youth Movement (SMYM) hosted its much-anticipated conference, Unite 2024, at El Rancho, Waikanae Beach, 2–5 February.

The largest national youth conference in New Zealand for teens (15–17), youth (18–24) and young family couples (under 40 years), had some 230 participants and 30 volunteers attending from over 15 cities around the country. 

Bishop Mar John Panamthotathil and Archbishop Paul Martin sm inaugurated the conference, which began with a Holy Qurbana in the Syro-Malabar rite (English), presided over by Bishop Mar John Panamthotathil. 

SMYM Wellington led a Margamkali cultural performance and Archbishop Paul Martin spoke about the future of our church, saying: ‘You are the Now of the God’.

The three-day convention included plenary sessions, inspirational talks and workshops, with prominent speakers and leaders from the Syro-Malabar Church, as well as Catholic clergy from around New Zealand.

Speakers included Rev Fr Daniel Poovannathil, Mar John Panamthottathil, Archbishop Paul Martin, Mr Brendan Malone, Rev Fr Philip Suelzer, Mr Sojin Sebastian and Rev Fr Joseph VJ CSSR.

Sessions ranged from spirituality, faith and personal development to addressing our Catholic viewpoint on topics such as abortion, pro-life and digital sanctity. 

SMYM members from Auckland, Hamilton, Hastings, Palmerston North, Whangārei, Wellington and Christchurch presented cultural performances ranging from dance and drama to short films, giving fellowship and insights into the SMYM units around New Zealand.

Unite 2024 was not just a gathering, it was a rediscovery and reawakening into our spiritual life, while meeting new people called together who share the same faith experiences. The conversations, connections and smiles created positivity throughout the conference.

It was a resounding success bringing together young Syro-Malabar Catholics in a spirit of unity, faith, and celebration. Unite 2024 not only strengthened bonds of fellowship but also inspired participants to live out their faith more fully in their daily lives. 

The months of preparation, organisation, prayer and hard work paid off with great success due to the fellowship and commitment of the SMYM national team, Bishop Bosco Puthur, Bishop John Panamthottathil, Syro-Malabar mission chaplains and the volunteers. 

Along the way we sought the patronage and intercession of Syro-Malabar saints, Our Father and Mothers – St Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, St Mariam Theresa, St Kuriakose Chavara and St Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for Unite 2024. 


The Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, with over five million faithful around the globe. It traces its origins to the evangelisation efforts of St Thomas the Apostle in India. The Syro-Malabar Catholics who derived their faith from St Thomas are known as Mar Thoma Nazranis. The church follows the East Syrian liturgical tradition and has its hierarchy headed by the Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil in communion with the Pope. Syro-Malabar Catholics are predominantly in the state of Kerala in India, but due to migration, communities are in many other parts of India and around the world, including New Zealand. SMYM is the official youth movement of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church with more than 1.6 million Catholic youth all over the world.