The participants arrived from all regions of Tajikistan—Dushanbe and Penjikent, Qurghonteppa and Konibodom, and the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Province. Some had to traverse treacherous alpine passes in order to reach their destination, a beautiful camp outside the city of Khujand.
Those gathered arose early on the morning of 29 November 2013 and prepared themselves for the conference. A stirring chant in Persian opened the first day’s proceedings, followed by a recitation of uplifting passages from the writings of the Bahá’í Faith in the Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian languages. After reading the 1 July 2013 message of the Universal House of Justice addressed to all youth conference participants, the group then split into two: Tajik-speakers and Russian-speakers.
“The things that we have discovered during our time together are so important that we shouldn’t keep them to ourselves—we must share them with others.”
A participant at the conference
A focus of the reflections was the significance of moving through the various stages in a young person’s life. The participants discussed the importance of early adolescence and that people of this age are susceptible to forces surrounding them, both positive and negative.
The ability to differentiate between these forces was identified as critical for unlocking the great potential that exists within themselves and their peers. One participant recounted how, while engaged in an act of service with some friends, a group of younger youth approached them asked what they were doing and whether they could help. “I talked to their parents later,” said the youth, “and they were surprised to learn that all these young people were volunteers who just shared a common desire to work for the betterment of society.” This story further inspired the conference-goers who had already expressed eagerness to start service projects in their own communities.
One group shared how their bonds of friendship deepened once they started actively participating in service together. “We were already friends with the members of our group,” they told the other attendees, “but our friendship only stemmed from being classmates or neighbours. But now we feel that our friendship has grown into something bigger. Now when we see one another in the street we talk about how we are doing and whether anyone needs support.” Another participant compared the work in their home community to the conference. “We don’t know each other,” they said, “but we have gathered here with one common goal, and we are learning how to be friends with one another.”
The evenings were full of artistic presentations that underscored the material explored during the days. For instance, inspired by a phrase from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh—“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illumine the whole earth”— groups created a dance depicting the forces of integration overcoming forces of disintegration. The joyful spirit of the gathering was not dampened when power was lost during an evening screening of segments from the film Frontiers of Learning. Those gathered simply lit the stage with torches, shared skits on the theme of speaking kindly of others, and sang songs until the electricity returned.
A representative from a local agency for youth affairs visited on the second day to learn more about the nature and purpose of the youth conference. After taking part in discussions on the themes of family, marriage, work, and true friendship, he was so inspired that he asked to remain and continue participating, adding, “We can work together for the education of youth.”
On the last day of the conference, participants split themselves into six groups based on their home regions and discussed how they would apply what they had learned. Some expressed a desire to begin working with younger youth right away. “We want to tell our friends about this gathering,” said one, “and we want to make a contribution to the development of our village.” “The things that we have discovered during our time together are so important that we shouldn’t keep them to ourselves—we must share them with others,” said a youth, expressing the sentiment of many heading home after the conference.
Youth registering for the conference
Participants studied the materials in large groups and then broke into smaller ones in order to explore the conference themes
A spirit of joy and focus imbued the atmosphere
The conference was an opportunity for the participants to reflect together about the contribution they can make to the spiritual and social development of their communities
Youth worked together on creative presentations that enhanced their understanding of the themes being studied
Youth shared the insights from their workshops in the plenary gatherings
Music and the arts were an integral component of the conference, bringing joy to all those who participated