Nearly fifty years since its public opening, beneath the 540 diamond-shaped windows of the dome of the Bahá’í House of Worship in Langenhain, Germany, hundreds of youth, in successive groups, prepared themselves with prayer for the coming days. Every thirty minutes, busloads of conference participants arrived and streamed past one another, some entering and others leaving the Temple to walk the grounds and meet new and old friends. From here the 900 participants, coming from Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, and Germany, travelled to Frankfurt for the conference.
Though the venue was a large football stadium and the participants filled up only one small section, many commented that there was a sense of what was now possible: the space served as a reminder that hundreds and thousands more can be invited into a conversation in which individuals collaborate together in a spirit of mutual support to contribute to the betterment of their communities. They could, from that vantage point, easily imagine the stadium being full.
"Only through service to others and our communities can we understand who we are and know our talents.”
A participant at the conference
Those gathered reflected on the nature of selfless service to humanity and how service provides an opportunity to develop spiritual qualities through contributing to the welfare of others. The youth saw a relationship between this twofold moral purpose and a sense of identity. One participant commented, "Only through service to others and our communities can we understand who we are and know our talents."
In reflecting on the qualities and attitudes service to the younger generation can develop, the youth identified a spirit of sacrifice and perseverance as particularly vital to their efforts. One young person shared, "Nothing is possible without constant sacrifice and persistence."
A consistent theme in the workshops and artistic presentations was the relationship between the dimensions of one's life, such as work, service, and study. Rather than seeing the opportunity for service and study as a choice, the youth came to understand that these are mutually reinforcing and complementary aspects of a coherent life. One young woman, herself a student, said, "One might think that study and service are two separate things, standing in contradiction. But I do not study for myself; I study because I want to make a contribution to the betterment of the world."
As the youth considered the nature of true friendship and its role in community building, the knowledge that all of the participants, representing seven countries in central Europe and embracing humanity’s diversity, would be walking the path together infused the conference with a remarkable degree of unity. The vision of a common purpose shaped the friendships made over the weekend, and bonds of love strengthened as all became conscious of the power of a collective movement. The joy, excitement, and resolve arising from this insight permeated every conversation and interaction of the participants. The venue was filled with groups of youth singing and drumming together, often spontaneously—further expressions of the elation they experienced.
The inevitable sacrifice that their commitment to being of service to humanity will ask of these youth can be traced back more than fifty years, to the heroic exertions of individuals throughout Europe who shared the same vision for a new civilization founded on love and unity. And on the shoulders of those sacrifices, linked over time, this contingent of nearly 1,000 youth stand ready to play their part, collaborating with hundreds and thousands of others in a humble posture of learning to find solutions to the challenges facing society and contribute to the well-being of their communities.
The participants studied several themes during the weekend including how to assist those younger than themselves
Youth studied, consulted, and planned together
A group engages in an animated discussion during one of the conference workshops
Youth worked together on a creative presentation of the themes being studied
Between sessions some youth joined in a spontaneous dance outdoors
Over 900 came to the conference from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland
The study of the materials was enhanced by creative expression through the arts
Singing and other arts infused both plenary and group sessions
Two youth drum together during a break a between sessions
The participants planned ways in which they could systematically contribute to the well-being of their communities upon their return home
A joyful spirit imbued the atmosphere