The diversity of Ethiopia—a nation comprised of 80 ethnic groups and languages—is truly remarkable. The conference held from 22 to 24 August in Addis Ababa, its capital city, and welcoming 573 young people from across the country, was representative of the unifying power of the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Those gathered were inspired by that vision to consult on ways they could contribute to the advancement of society.
Participants reflected on the opportunity and responsibility youth have to arise and play their part in the betterment of their communities. In this context, they explored the centrality of service to others in contributing to an individual’s spiritual development and the transformation of society. “Spirituality does not mean to live in isolation,” one young person said, “rather to live in the world with all its challenges and work towards making it a better place.”
“Youth, society, and institutions should collaborate towards the progress of the community.”
A participant at the conference
Those gathered consulted about the importance of creating an environment in which all are empowered to contribute their talents to the betterment of the community. One said, “True friendship is to serve together, and in order to accomplish that, unity of thought will be very important.” They explored how the various elements of society could benefit from relationships characterized by reciprocity and cooperation. “Youth, community and institutions should collaborate towards the progress of society,” a participant said.
They also considered the role of the family in the context of contributing to the advancement of civilization. “Those who marry have the opportunity to consult about how they can open their homes for community activities. Marriage is one of the best opportunities to intensify efforts to serve others,” said a young person.
Study of the conference materials inspired profound reflection about how service to the community reshapes patterns of thought and action in light of Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a unified world. A youth from Wondogenet explained, “There is a conflict of clans in my area which destroys many things. Whenever the fighting started, I would ask myself which side I should join, because my father and mother belong to different clans. Now I think that after this conference, I will dedicate my energy to assist groups of younger youth to develop their talents and spiritual qualities, so that the next generation will avoid this kind of conflict and live peacefully.”
As the conference was nearing its close, Continental Counsellor Christopher Songok, representing the Universal House of Justice, encouraged the participants to remember that God would grant them the power to translate their noble ideals into action, a principle expressed by 'Abdu’l-Bahá: “God is the helper of those souls whose aim is to serve humanity and whose efforts and endeavors are devoted to the good and betterment of all mankind.”
Youth from the same communities gathered to consult about their plans of action
Participants explored the themes in the conference materials
The conference was an opportunity for youth to reflect together about the contribution they can make to the spiritual and social development of their communities
Everyone gathered for plenary sessions in the mornings and evenings
Youth shared the results of their group consultations during plenary sessions
Singing and other arts were some of the highlights of the plenary and group sessions
Original artistic presentations were shared on each day of the conference
Cultural dances were shared by participants
Music and the arts were a large component of the conference, bringing joy to all those who participated
Participants worked together to illustrate the concepts they had explored