At the tip of the Cap-Vert Peninsula, dipped in the Atlantic Ocean, the capital city of Dakar welcomed over 350 youth from five neighbouring countries – Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal, and The Gambia – who came together to discuss their contributions to the spiritual and material progress of their communities. More than half of the conference attendees were friends of the Bahá’ís, arriving with curiosity in their minds and eagerness to learn about the processes with which a community could contribute to the well-being of all.
The devotional programme of the first morning was prepared by youth from Senegal and Cape Verde and was followed by a warm welcome from a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Senegal, who underlined the unique character of this series of international conferences called by the Universal House of Justice: that thousands of young people all around the world, over the course of four months are gathering week by week, to reflect on how they will begin or continue contributing to the spiritual and material progress of their communities.
“The hour has struck to carry forward human civilization to its high destiny.”
A participant at the conference
Dakar conference participants discussed how the development of society depended on the selfless contribution of those who comprise it. They identified the qualities that make the period of youth unique. Then, they considered what they could undertake to do in their communities during this time of their life, explored how both negative and positive forces in society act on them, and how they could help each other act on the positive ones.
For some young people, their capacity for meaningful service had already been expressed by serving, from a few months to sometimes a few years, as facilitators of groups for the spiritual empowerment of younger youth. The experiences of these participants enriched discussions on how youth could help those younger than themselves understand their spiritual nature and learn from their mistakes. In fact participants were so engaged in study of the conference concepts and themes on the first and second days, that the artistic presentations were postponed until the last day of the conference.
The artistic evening started with a song written by the youth from Senegal, based on the title of the conference: “Youth: Engine of the Progress of Civilization.” Then the participants from each country presented a number of songs, skits, and dances both modern and traditional on the various topics studied during the conference. The tone throughout all the presentations was one of hope anchored in reality; for example, one of the poems was inspired by insights regarding the processes of disintegration and integration that “will carry humanity forward in its evolution.” The evening ended with a song entitled “The Hour has Struck” with lyrics melodiously inspiring the youth to “to carry forward human civilization/to its high destiny.”
The participant’s profound understanding and commitment to contributing to the processes of community-building moved many of the adult volunteers supporting the conference. One volunteer observed, “I was amazed to see how, during the planning session, despite their tiredness after three intense, long days of study, some of the youth were planning to start their activities the day after the conference’s closing.” Many young people stated how they were looking forward to continuing the conversation about contributing with ever increasing efficacy to the betterment of their communities, and how they look forward to inviting their friends to join in the conversation.
One young man said he gets discouraged quickly when he feels he is alone, but he now felt hopeful that he would be supported by friends who would really try to help one another to persevere in their activities no matter what happens. And working together, we can make this world into an earthly paradise if we rely on the assistance of God. Finally, he mentioned the challenge that remains for us is to arise and act, and to develop true, sincere and enduring friendships that extend beyond the sphere of our activities, into all aspects of our lives.
The youth left the conference feeling empowered with a mission: to fulfill the spiritual destiny of humanity. “This is our time,” one of the participants said, face beaming. “The time for us to arise and selflessly serve. We have the energy and we have the time; we will do it now.”
Young people between the ages of 15 to 30 arrive at the conference site
Volunteers welcomed and registered conference participants
Participants came from Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal, and The Gambia
The conference was an opportunity for participants to reflect together about how they can assist those younger than themselves
Youth from the same communities gathered to explore the themes in light of their local realities
Some of the plans made by the participants would begin being implemented the very day after the conference ended
With the assistance of a facilitator, workshop groups studied a section of the materials
The materials generated a lot of discussions in the workshops
Traditional rhythmic dancing to the beat of drums energized the participants.
Inspired by the conference materials many original songs were created and shared
A group photo of the conference participants