They came by train, filling seats and hallways, and perching on rooftops with bags and guitars in hand. The hearts of more than 1,500 young people overflowed with eagerness as a network of rail lines swiftly shuttled many from their homes in the regions of eastern and western Kasai to converge at the youth conference in Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo, from 23 to 25 August.
Organizers commissioned trains from the Congo Railway Company to transport youth to the conference, and signs were posted indicating all the spaces were reserved for participants. Such an arrangement provided an opportunity for many to share with curious passers-by the reasons that had motivated them to attend the conference.
“I am on the path of service to humanity thanks to the support of a friend. I have decided to also help bring others onto this path.”
A participant at the conference
This was the fifth and final conference organized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in response to the summons of the Universal House of Justice. Each gathering has opened the way for increasing numbers of youth to reflect on their realities and commit themselves to developing their capacities for meaningful service and so bring about constructive change needed by the peoples of their nation.
The conference began in a joyful atmosphere enriched with prayers and readings recited from the Bahá’í Writings. As the youth began to study and consult together, they increased their understanding of the connection between their own progress and the development of their local communities. Several shared stories of profound changes they had witnessed in themselves and in the lives of their younger friends as they strove to channel their talents and energies towards the well-being of others. An older youth shared an example of a friend who, after joining a group of friends collaborating to improve their community, had learned how to read and write. This gave her the confidence to take initiative to assist her family with household responsibilities. The use of the arts, such as poems and songs, added creative expression to the participants’ understanding of themes such as the assisting in the advancement of civilization and working with others in a spirit of mutual support.
After having reflected, some for the first time, on how they could contribute to the development of their communities, the youth were eager to learn more about how they could support both new and ongoing community-building initiatives upon their return home. Many were thankful they had this opportunity to commit their lives to such a meaningful purpose, a feeling that inspires them to invite more young people to join them in their endeavours. “I am on the path of service to humanity thanks to the support of a friend,” said one participant, “and I have decided to also help bring others onto this path.”
Organizers commissioned trains from the Congo Railway Company to transport youth to the conference
Over 1,500 participants attended the conference
During workshop sessions, small groups formed throughout the conference grounds to explore the specially prepared materials with the help of a facilitator
Participants gathered outdoors for plenary sessions in the mornings and evenings
Participants from the ages of 15-30 attended the gathering
During consultations participants explored how everyone has capacities to contribute to the betterment of their communities
Participants consulted in large and small workshop groups
Some groups studied outside under the shade of trees
The conference was one of five that were held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in July and August