Chennai Youth Conference

India | 27-29 September 2013

For some, their experience with the Bahá’i-inspired community-building endeavour spans years, for others their participation is perhaps of a few months, and for others still, their introduction to the conversation—at the heart of which is the effort to apply the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh to the advancement of society—has been just a few days. Yet regardless of how long they have been involved, they are wholeheartedly committing themselves to meaningful acts of service reflective of their affinity with the vision of contributing to the advancement of neighbourhoods and villages around the world. The 800 participants of the Chennai youth conference, held from 27 to 29 September, represented this range of experience.

Chennai is the capital city of Tamil Nadu (in English, “the land of Tamils”), one of the 28 states of India, a diverse and culturally rich nation. Tamil is considered one of the classical languages of India and the official language of the state. The deep cultural influence is reflected in the literature, art, and music of a region that retains many aspects of its traditional heritage and places great emphasis on education. The young people of Tamil Nadu have proved their capacity to sustain long-term commitment to the process of spiritual education offered in their neighbourhoods and villages.

“We need to take others along with us in the path of service. It is not important how fast we go, it is important that we walk together.”

A participant at the conference

As the conference participants—travelling from Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands—arrived, the traditional music of nadhasawaram melam echoed in the main hall, and all were greeted with sprinkles of rosewater, flowers, and sweets. The conference opened with prayers.

“When one sees his life in a fragmented way, it is very difficult to make progress because we can be pulled in conflicting directions. However when we view life in a coherent way, we have greater clarity,” commented a youth during the opening workshop, in which participants explored the unique period of youth and the challenges and opportunities it presents. Their study of the concept that the various aspects of one’s life complement one another rather than represent conflicting aims had a profound impact on the understanding of those gathered.

In large and small groups, the youth reflected on the imperative of creating an environment of mutual support in order to provide the opportunity for many more friends to participate in the community-building process. In this connection, they considered how friendship, when developed in the context of working towards a common vision of change, could be a source of encouragement and assistance. “Mutual support means walking with others in the path of service, and learning from one another,” a participant said. Another commented, “We need to take others along with us in the path of service. It is not important how fast we go, it is important that we walk together.”

The potential of an environment characterized by encouragement and mutual assistance to facilitate participation was evident, as young person after young person commented on how their confidence to share ideas and ask questions throughout their study had significantly grown over their three days together. Those gathered remarked that this was the result of consultations characterized by a willingness to learn and a spirit of true fellowship. Each was eager to listen to the thoughts of others, and together strengthen their vision shaped by a common purpose.

Inspired by their study and growing understanding, the conference participants were anticipating that upon returning to their communities, they would share the insights gleaned from their time together with others, and in an ever-widening circle of friends, make a contribution to the well-being of humanity.

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  • 800 young people travelled from Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the conference in Chennai

  • Participants read the 1 July 2013 message of the Universal House of Justice

  • Workshop discussions enabled the participants to engage more deeply with sections of the conference materials

  • Study of the materials stimulated the thinking of the youth

  • Group study inspired thoughtful reflection and joyful interactions

  • A group consults about the characteristics of their age group

  • Workshop groups provided everyone with an opportunity to share their thoughts

  • Youth from the same communities reflected about the reality of their regions

  • Members of each group gathered to consult about their plans

  • Participants listened keenly to insights shared by their friends during plenary sessions

  • Music and song often uplifted the hearts of all gathered

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