Boston Youth Conference

United States | 19-21 July 2013

They arrived in waves. The energy was palpable as busload after busload of youth entered the conference venue, smiling and sometimes cheering in expression of their excitement and joy. 550 conference participants, from across the Northeastern United States, gathered at the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay, a tree-lined Boston neighbourhood characterized by remaining 19th century architecture.

The conference was marked with a unity of purpose, commitment to collective learning, and an attitude of consecration as the participants gathered in groups by region and neighbourhood to study and reflect on themes including the capacity of the younger generation to contribute to social progress, the spiritual qualities and attitudes that can be developed through service to others, and the implications of Bah‎á’u’lláh’s teachings on the life of a community.

“I learned the meaning of service for the first time—it’s not about the act but about building a new civilization.”

A participant at the conference

One of the participants shared his hope, “I want to use my life as an experience for kids. I want to speak to them; I want to keep them away from doing drugs. I want to tell them, ‘There has to be a purpose for you in life’.”

Another youth reflected on their new understanding of service to others, after having explored this theme with peers in the conference workshops, “I have done service projects before, so I thought I had seen it all. I wondered, ‘What’s in it for me?’ But I learned the meaning of service for the first time—it’s not about the act but about building a new civilization.”

During the morning devotions, each region shared passages from the Bahá’í Writings and prayers put to song. The arts were used throughout the conference and included skits and re-creations of activities conducted in workshop sessions. When consulting on the age of early adolescence during one workshop, a group of youth recited poems they had written answering the question: “Do you remember what it was like to be 12?”

Two secondary school students shared their reflections on the conversation of the youth at the conference, “These are conversations we have all the time among ourselves, but we didn’t know that there was anyone else like us. If we had this in our school, people would really benefit. The Writings of the Bahá’í Faith feel universal.”

As the conference drew to a close, one youth described how his understanding of the power of collective action in contributing to change in a community had grown, “The more people that you have, the stronger you are. The more hands you have, the lighter the work is.”

The youth returned to their homes via the buses on which they had arrived, inspired, uplifted, and with clear plans of action, to take the next step together on their path of service to their communities.

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  • Youth from the Northeastern United States begin arriving at the conference venue

  • Friends share insights together in a small-group workshop session

  • A group of participants sing together

  • A group of youth reflect on the themes in the conference material

  • A group of youth sharing insights and making plans for when they return home

  • Participants engaged attentively in their workshop

  • A joyful spirit imbued the atmosphere

  • Groups sessions involved time for study, reflection, and the sharing of experiences

  • Participants used a variety of activities to more deeply understand the concepts in the study material

  • Friends consult and reflect together

  • A group shares the fruits of their deliberations

  • Participants gather at the venue for a group photo

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