Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are three cities bordering one another in North Carolina, in the United States, known together as “The Triangle”. It was in the city of Raleigh that more than 230 youth from the Southeastern United States and Bermuda assembled at the convention centre for the start of their three day youth conference on July 18.
The arrival of groups of youth lit up the venue with enthusiasm and joy, often expressed through music and song. Throughout the conference, participants could be heard singing on their way to workshops, in the lunch hall, and after plenary sessions. In corners and corridors, groups of youth often gathered to drum, play guitar and sing together, learning songs from one another’s regions or creating new music reflective of the insights gleaned from their consultations. One participant observed that even the hotel staff would often stop to listen to the youth sing, smiles brightening their faces, sharing in the excitement of their guests.
“A reason for this conference is to instill in ourselves the power of service to others, setting up a foundation for service to our communities for the rest of our lives.”
A participant at the conference
As the youth reflected on the high sense of purpose that shapes their collective and individual action, one participant shared, “We are all diverse in our backgrounds and lives, but we are unified by our desire to serve Baha’u’llah’s vision.”
Another, in thinking about the purpose of the conference, said, “A reason for this conference is to instill in ourselves the power of service to others, setting up a foundation for service to our communities for the rest of our lives.”
The participants considered the ways in which individuals could serve their community. One young person shared her insight with the group: “Service doesn’t have to be in another country, or somewhere far away.” The group concluded that service can take place in all of the environments in which they interact with others, such as school, family, places of worship, and work.
Many of the youth had experience working with younger youth in various activities in their neighbourhoods. In reflecting on his service to the younger generation, one participant shared, “The groups for younger youth help them and us to understand the constructive and destructive forces in society, and to reinforce morals that can help them survive. It is up to the youth of this age to help those younger than them through this time of their lives; to assist them.”
Vibrant artistic expressions characterized the conference, including poetry, drama, collage, rap, and spoken word. Participants learned a call and response song that they sang as a collective, often spontaneously, throughout their three days together.
One participant, who along with his wife plans to invite youth from his home community to join the conversation, exploring themes such as service to others, true friendship, and the relationship between individual and collective development, shared this insight: “Just because some youth may not discuss spiritual matters, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to talk about them—just that they don’t have the space to do so. We can help create that space.”
The bonds of love and friendship fostered among the participants had a profound impact on them. One youth shared, “The youth in my area all came here as individuals, as separate servants. But we are leaving as a unit with a consolidated plan of action. I no longer feel like I am serving alone.”
Youth consult together in a small workshop group
A participant writes the Words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for fellow group members
A glimpse of one of the evening arts presentations
Youth gathered in a large workshop group to reflect on themes such as developing the capacity for true friendship
Two youth work together on an artistic representation of the themes they have been discussing
Participants created collages for one of the arts activities
New friendships were forged between participants throughout the conference
Drumming enlivened the artistic presentations
Two youth perform a skit on one of the themes discussed in the workshops
A group photo of the participants