At the Battambang, Cambodia youth conference, held 10 – 12 September, the sounds of the Chayyam– —a traditional song performed for ceremonial occasions—could be heard, as a group of youth escorted Continental Counsellors Lee Lee Loh Ludher and Myint Zaw Oo, representing the Universal House of Justice, into the main hall of the venue. In this city, built along the Sangkae River, over 500 youth from Cambodia and Vietnam gathered to reflect on the spiritual and material progress of their communities and the ways in which they can prepare themselves for a life of service. Although the region has experienced a tumultuous period of war and conflict in its recent history, in the last decade and a half groups of youth have contributed to a community-building process inspired by the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, that is well underway in a number of villages and towns.
In the opening welcome, the Deputy Governor of Battambang, joined by members of the local and regional government, praised the efforts of the youth for their service endeavours.
After the welcome, the participants sang a song, composed for the conference:
In workshops, the participants discussed themes that included characteristics of the unique period of youth, the positive effect of service on spiritual and intellectual growth, and the capacity of the younger generations to contribute to social progress.
“We should strive to share what we learn with friends, so that they can also participate in the community building process.”
A participant at the conference
Based on her service efforts in Pursat, a young woman shared ways in which she sees spiritual capacities developing in the younger youth in her community: “They are more courageous and seem to be concerned with each other’s lives. They are willing to help others.” She noted that this change in spirit was not only taking place within the younger youth, but could also be seen among the parents, as members of the community began to work together for the betterment of all.
One youth from Osralao shared an example of how common social issues can be addressed through the spiritual empowerment and education of children and youth: “In families in our community, domestic violence is too often a normal occurrence. I now understand that it is a cycle that has continued through generations. However, if we educate the younger youth to help them prepare spiritually for their responsibility to nurture the well-being of our community, this cycle can eventually be broken.”
The evening plenaries included skits, songs and poetry inspired by each day’s study of the conference materials. The atmosphere was joyous and celebratory, as young people found creative ways to express insights gleaned from their consultations.
During the last session, conference materials helped to explore the ways in which young people can contribute to the advancement of civilization. In this light, participants consulted on how they could help their families to contribute meaningfully to the progress of society, and about the nature of a local community that is able to help its members develop qualities and capacities to be civilizationbuilders. In this context, one youth from Battambang said, “We have to be conscious that our choice of profession is one that benefits the community.” Another youth from Osralao Village of Battambang—a locality in which more than 25% of the population participate in community activities—reflected on the value of a clear sense of purpose in contributing to the building of a new civilization which, with a spirit of generosity, inspires youth to invite others: “We should strive to share what we learn with friends, so that they can also participate in the community building process.”
As the conference drew to a close, the participants felt a renewed resolve to invite more and more of their peers into the conversation, inspired by Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a new world order. They shared a sense of hope for the future of their communities and a deepened commitment to work together for change.
Youth register for the conference
Continental Counsellors Dr. Lee Lee Loh Ludher and Myint Zaw Oo, along with the deputy governor of Battambang province, Mr. Ouy Rei, were warmly greeted as they arrived at the gathering
A group performing a traditional Chayyam for the beginning of the conference
Devotions at the beginning of each session assisted in creating an atmosphere of reverence
The atmosphere for the duration of the conference was creative and high-spirited
Volunteers helped prepare food for the gathering
Workshops met in various settings around the conference venue
One of the workshop sessions discussed the role of youth in assisting those younger than themselves
The conference was filled with both purposeful study and joyful fellowship
The conference was an opportunity for the participants to reflect together about the contribution they can make to the spiritual and social development of their communities
Youth studied, consulted and planned together
Plenary sessions included a variety of artistic and musical presentations
Participants watched portions of the film Frontiers of Learning
>Youth shared plans for when they return home
Music and cultural arts were a large component of the conference, bringing joy to all those who participated