In 1863, Bahá'u'lláh, then an exile in Baghdad, set out on His second banishment toward Constantinople—present day Istanbul—along with His family and some of His devoted followers. In August of that year, after four months of travel, Bahá'u'lláh arrived in Istanbul, Turkey, a country that would for five years witness some of the most painful adversities endured by Him for the sake of humanity. Exactly 150 years later, more than 260 youth from Cyprus and Turkey gathered in that city to explore how they could work together towards the realization of His vision for a just and united world.
The call for the 114 youth conferences by the Universal House of Justice prompted many young people to invite their friends to join them in working toward the spiritual and material development of their communities. “We became very excited when we received the message of the House of Justice,” expressed one youth, “and studied it with our friends before coming to the conference.” Many of these groups travelled together in long bus rides that provided them with an opportunity to reflect on their experiences over the last several months and further strengthen their bonds of friendship.
“I feel more confident now because I see that I am not alone on this path.”
A participant at the conference
Those gathered reflected deeply on concepts such as the contribution youth can make to the advancement of society and the unique characteristics and capabilities of those younger in age. For many, it was the first time they were given the space to participate in a focused discussion about the way in which their actions could make a profound difference in a world of turmoil and injustice. It signified a turning point in their perception of society and their role in it, as they enhanced their understanding of how seemingly simple activities, carried out in a spirit of selfless service, can contribute to a larger process of transformation.
“I think this conference is precious because we have gathered to share our ideas and understanding,” said one participant. He added, “Here we have a chance to hear what others think and to reflect on our great purpose in life.” The participants were inspired by a new awareness of the unique capacities of youth – contrasting with the all too common notion of it being a troubled period of life or, at best, a time of waiting for future responsibilities. One youth shared “I feel more confident now because I see that I am not alone on this path. I see that there are many other young people like me, who have the same sense of purpose in life.”
At the close of the conference the young people expressed sentiments of joyful optimism and an eagerness to return to their homes to put into practice, along with their peers, the ideas they had discussed. “There is a warm and spiritual atmosphere here,” shared one of the participants, “but I believe that the most important thing is what will happen when we return home and invite more friends to join in serving our communities.”
Youth from Cyprus and Turkey registered for the conference
The participants shared their insights during the sessions
Youth studied and consulted together in large and small workshop groups
Participants incorporated artistic expressions into their study to consolidate their understanding of the conference themes
Many concepts and ideas emerged from the study of the materials throughout the different sessions
Different groups engaged in conversations about how to contribute to the advancement of their communities
Around 260 young people filled the conference hall with energy and joy
Artistic presentations were a component of the plenary sessions
The atmosphere for the duration of the conference was joyful and high-spirited