Suffused with sunlight, the high ceilings of the Hotel Haaga in Helsinki provided ample room for the elevated thoughts of youth gathered for the conference in Finland from 2 to 4 August.
Some 350 youth participating in the conference came from Denmark, Greenland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, enthused by the knowledge that ten other conferences were taking place simultaneously around the world. Everyone warmly welcomed the efforts of a group of ten youth who had traveled 4,000 kilometres from Greenland to participate.
“We have risen to give our life to serving the community, by being role models for the younger ones, being spearheads of learning. We have become a unified group.”
A participant at the conference
The young people gathered at the conference engaged in conversations about the powers and opportunities available to them, the nature of true friendship, and building community—in particular in one’s neighbourhood, sharing the vision of Bahá‘u’lláh with others, and planning their next steps after the weekend.
Comments shared by Continental Counsellors Shirin Fozdar-Foroudi and Bernard Lo Cascio, as well as members of the National Spiritual Assemblies of the countries represented at the conference, helped to channel the thinking of the group. In particular, study of the materials aided the youth to reflect on how they could resist negative social influences, the allures of which are temporary, and instead act in a way that befits human dignity and contributes to the lasting well-being of society.
The artistic components of the conference illustrated the participants’ understanding, such as a spoken-word poem about the qualities of a person who assists younger youth, a skit exploring the power of language to strengthen or impede one’s desire to be of service, and a visual presentation where youth intertwined strips of fabric to show the level of trust and faith implied in mutual support. The atmosphere was further enriched by the delicate notes of a traditional melody played on the Finnish national instrument, the stringed kantele.
On the second morning a prayer revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for the friends in Greenland was read in the Inuit language, followed by the participants’ voices rising in song together. As the days progressed, a growing sense of collective identity and moral purpose started to make itself felt. Older youth were inspired by the maturity of the comments made by those younger than themselves about the importance of listening to one another with spiritual perception and developing one’s talents in service to the common good while quieting the ego.
One participant shared, “I used to be a shy and quiet person. But here I experienced that we all share the same vision of Bahá’u’lláh. We have risen to give our life to serving the community, by being role models for the younger ones, being spearheads of learning. We have become a unified group.”
Youth of all ages shared their insights during workshops
A song was shared on the concept of assisting in the advancement of one’s community
The atmosphere throughout the conference was joyful, attentive and reverent
Songs were used to articulate the concepts during several of the sessions
Some groups moved outside to study in the beautiful summer weather
Alongside thoughtful study, artistic expressions brought joy to the hearts of the youth
The atmosphere for the duration of the conference was both thoughtful and high-spirited
Some youth discuss one of the conference themes on mutual support and assistance
The participants joined together in a group dance
Creative expression through the arts illustrated ideas such as the importance of faith and trust in friendship