The youth conference in Bidor, Malaysia, opened with a rousing song that was specially composed for the occasion. The song, entitled “Bangkit lah Belia”, Bahasa Malaysia for “Arise, O Youths”, called on young people to arise and scale the heights of service to their communities, in particular by empowering those younger than themselves to contribute to the transformation of society. Many of the 400 youth present had travelled for hours to get to the conference site, on foot, in trucks, and by bus, including some from the mountaintop villages in the nearby Titiwangsa Mountains.
Since there was no adequate venue available for the expected number of participants in the rural setting of Bidor, organizers took the initiative to build, from the ground up, structures for conference sessions and lodging.This was only possible, of course, with the wholehearted support and sacrificial efforts of many of the residents of the Bidor area, in particular those of the Kampung Chang village where the conference was hosted. Children, parents, and grandparents all collaborated weeks in advance—by clearing the land, transporting materials, raising the structures, and feeding volunteers—to create befitting spaces to host such a special gathering.
“When we go home, we hope to open our home to more friends, especially those interested in the betterment of society.”
A participant at the conference
The excitement among the participants, representing youth in their mid-teens through to young parents in their late 20s, was shown in the joyful interactions among them.. Each morning, an uplifting devotional programme, prepared by groups of participants from different communities, helped to foster an environment that was both high-spirited and focused. Later, youth joined workshops according to community of origin, and in order to encourage more precise discussion and planning, subgroups were formed according to home village, and in some cases, by age range.
The study of the conference materials in each session helped participants explore profound ideas and questions in light of their own realities. One group, for example, comprising youth from a particular village, discussed the conditions that had led some peers to travel to bigger towns and cities for employment, highlighting the contribution that they felt their generation could make by staying in the village and helping it to advance materially and spiritually. Another group considered how the processes of studying, getting married, or having children are enriched when one places service to the community as a cornerstone for living. “Now that we have a child,” shared one young mother from Kampung Das, “I don’t want to stop working for the betterment of my community. I hope that my efforts will contribute to creating a healthy environment for our child to grow up in.”
After viewing segments of the film Frontiers of Learning, subtitled in Bahasa Malaysia, a vibrant discussion ensued in which many participants drew parallels between their own villages and the villages depicted in the film. Some related to the idea that the process of building a community that is united in its aim to educate all its members spiritually and materially takes a long time and requires patience and perseverance.
A persistent overnight rain between the second and third days of the conference flooded most of the smaller structures that were built for breakout sessions. The youth were undismayed, however, and made arrangements to accommodate each discussion group under the shelter of the main tent. Participants spent part of the final day refining the maps created in an earlier workshop, which were used to facilitate the planning of community-building activities, and shared these plans in a closing plenary session. After an inspiring three days, surrounded by the love and support of the members of Bahá’í institutions and the residents of the Kampung Chang village, the youth returned to their communities equipped with fond memories and a commitment to offer concrete acts of service.
Community members of all ages supported the conference preparations weeks in advance
Youth travelled on foot, in trucks, and by bus to get to the Kampung Chang
Continental Counsellor Lee Lee Ludher received a traditional welcome garland and headdress
Some 400 youth from the central region of Malaysia gathered for the youth conference in Bidor
Breakout sessions were held in various locations throughout the village, under specially prepared canopies
Residents from the village of Kampung Chang helped to prepare and serve food to the conference participants
New friendships were forged between participants throughout the conference
Group sessions involved time for study, reflection, and the sharing of experiences
The atmosphere for the duration of the conference was joyful and high-spirited
Devotional periods at the beginning of each session set the atmosphere of reflection for the consultations
Singing and other arts infused both plenary and group sessions