Bardiya (Banke) Youth Conference

Nepal | 25-27 October 2013

Nepalgunj, in the Banke district, is one of the largest cities in Nepal and is filled with busy streets. On 25 October, traffic periodically came to a stop as 72 buses full of youth from villages and towns of the western region of Nepal made their way toward a stadium in the city centre. Just over 4,000 young people gathered from 26 to 28 October to focus their thoughts and energies on the material and spiritual well-being of their communities. As one participant said, “Each of us needs to recognize our own responsibility and contribute to the progress of the village where we live.”

After registering, the participants joined one another in a large tent erected in the middle of the stadium for the plenary and workshop sessions. They sat in groups, some making garlands of marigold flowers to decorate the stage, others singing, and yet others sitting silently in awe of their surroundings. The conference task force had arranged a contribution desk, and many of the participants had organized their donations while still on their buses, making the process much more efficient upon arrival. Along with cash funds, donations included rice, lentils, and vegetables brought from their villages, some hundreds of kilometers away.

“We need to develop humility and other spiritual qualities, to change ourselves and our community which will then influence our country and the whole world.”

A participant at the conference

Study of the conference materials helped the youth to reflect on how they could fulfill their higher purpose in service to humanity. “We need to work for the betterment of our villages and the younger generation will follow our example. We need to develop humility and other spiritual qualities, to change ourselves and our community which will then influence our country and the whole world.”

In Nepal, police are often sent to large gatherings as a security measure. On the first day of the conference, policemen arrived and watched over the proceedings. On the second day, one young officer found a group that was from a village near to his. He sat down and participated enthusiastically in the consultations. As a result of their conversation together, he earnestly invited the workshop participants to come to his village, to begin service activities with the children and younger youth, assuring them that he would extend every support to their efforts.

Those gathered recognized how important it was to share what they had learned with their peers. They understood that creating environments in which every member of the community feels that they can help and be assisted in their efforts to serve others was necessary for progress. “We should not keep this knowledge to ourselves. Rather, we should share with others so that we can help change our village and community.” In speaking of how loving support, fellowship, and joy in the accomplishments of others must characterize the bonds between the members of a community, the youth commented, “We have to look at society and our community as if its members are a part of our own family, and treat them with the same kind of love and consideration.”

The evening plenaries featured artistic presentations based on the study of the conference materials. Participants from many different backgrounds, dressed in traditional attire, created a beautiful, colourful and diverse collage of Nepali culture.

Upon leaving, the participants were imbued with an even greater sense of mission to help their communities align with the vision of Bahá‘u’lláh. One youth shared: “To make a positive impact in our communities we can organize children’s classes, groups for younger youth, and devotional gatherings to assist in the spiritual development of all.”

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  • Devotional periods at the beginning of each session assisted in creating an atmosphere of reverence

  • Discussions began in large groups and then broke into smaller ones in order to explore the themes of the conference in light of their local realities

  • The conference was an opportunity for the participants to reflect together about the contribution they can make to the spiritual and social development of their communities

  • A joyful spirit imbued the atmosphere

  • Participants used a variety of creative activities to enhance their understanding of the concepts in the study materials

  • Youth shared their insights and the plans they had made

  • Music and the arts were a significant component of the conference

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