Dressed in classical traditional attire, local youth performed a tribal dance along the entrance pathway, joyfully welcoming 630 of their peers to the youth conference being held in the centre of Bhubaneswar, India, the capital city of eastern province of Orissa. To accommodate everyone, large canopies of colourful fabrics had been set up on bamboo frames in the park grounds. The youth were gathered to consult on ways that they, along with rising generations could refine their characters and prepare to assume responsibility for the well-being of their neighbourhoods and towns.
Continental Counsellors Rajan Sawant and Delafruz Nassimova represented the Universal House of Justice at the conference, which took place from 6 to 8 September. Mrs. Nassimova remarked on the beautiful tribal art and the tribal dance performed by the youth, saying: “The richness of culture when imbued with the Teachings of Baha’u’llah is amazing!” She further elaborated that even dance and art, “need training, need unity, and need to be systematic”, in very similar ways to the efforts needed for community-building.
“I have always been concerned about the children and younger youth in my village but did not know what to do. Now I have found a way to contribute to their spiritual growth.”
A participant at the conference
In workshops, participants delved deeply into the concepts of the conference themes which included examining the opportunities and challenges in the world that young people navigate, and the importance of building their own capacity to bring about the changes they hoped to achieve in their communities. In this respect, many youth committed to work on being more loving, kind, and respectful, and to walk with others in a path of service. One mother described her feelings after witnessing the effect of the conference on her daughter as follows: “From the depth of my heart, I feel that she and her friends are protected as long as they are involved in community-building activities. In the past three days I have seen profound changes in them. They are developing the ability to express their thoughts and understanding in positive ways.”
After the youth watched Frontiers of Learning, they considered what characteristics had helped the people featured in the film develop a pattern of collective life animated by the Writings of Bahá‘u’lláh. “Their unity is assisting them to move forward and build a new community,” one participant said. “We could see true friendship and mutual support,” added another.
The study of the conference materials, many concepts of which were captured by the film inspired reflection about how becoming part of humanity’s effort to translate the vision of Bahá‘u’lláh into reality can transform ways of thinking and influence important decisions, such as who to marry and what profession to pursue. “Our involvement helps to remove old beliefs such as the inequality of men and women,” one youth said. “Our choice of a marriage partner should be someone who is ready to walk the path of service alongside us,” another said.
By the end of the weekend the concept of living a life of service had been so well understood that a group of youth decided to stay after the conference was over to help clean the venue. One youth said "If we don't start this process of change from today we will be only men of words and not of deeds."
This capacity to translate words into deeds and to communicate profound concepts and ideas was further demonstrated in the words of a song composed and sung at the conference, which expressed the youths’ happiness as they prepared to return home with a clarified vision of contributing to the material and spiritual development of their regions:
Community building is in our hands,
Let us walk hand in hand,
Leave all old thoughts behind,
And build a new home together.
A home that is blessed,
A fragrant dream.
Continental Counsellors Rajan Sawant and Delafruz Nassimova are welcomed to the conference
Devotional periods at the beginning of each session set the atmosphere of reflection for the consultations
Youth gathered in large workshop groups to reflect on themes such as developing the capacity for true friendship
Participants used a variety of activities to more deeply understand the concepts in the study materials
A spirit of joy and focus imbued the atmosphere
Participants used role play to articulate their understanding of the concepts
Participants consulted on how they can assist those younger than themselves to contribute to the well-being of their communities
The study of the materials was enhanced by creative expression through the arts
The youth made maps of their neighbourhoods to consult about their plans of action
Groups took turns sharing the fruits of their consultations
Artistic presentations were shared each day of the conference
Music and the arts were an integral component of the conference, bringing joy to all those who participated
A sand sculpture was created to commemorate the 114 youth conferences taking place around the world
A photo of the conference participants