Kolkata Youth Conference

India | 13-15 September 2013

Kolkata—the “City of Joy”’—sits on the east bank of the Hooghly River and is the capital of the state of West Bengal, India. It was there, from 13 to 15 September, that just over 900 young people, inspired by Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a new world, gathered to consult on the responsibility before youth to channel their energies towards the advancement of their neighbourhoods and villages.

In a spirit of anticipation and excitement, the workshops began as participants explored themes including the special characteristics of the period of youth and the importance of both spiritual and material education Reflecting on education as part of the process of empowerment for individuals and communities, one participant commented, “I used to think that formal education is the only priority for youth. But now my idea has changed. Now I understand that we need spiritual education as well as material education.”

“I used to think that we cannot make any change in the world, but after our discussions and study of conference materials, I realized that together we can strive to bring change to society.”

A participant at the conference

The participants shared how their study of the idea of coherence between various dimensions of one’s life helped them in their understanding of how to incorporate service into their lives. As one young man said “Many times I was in a dilemma to study or to serve. But now I realize I can do both simultaneously.”

The youth discussed the ways in which they could enhance their ability to create an atmosphere of mutual support and assistance. They recognized that the nature of a path of service to others allows for many people to advance and grow together. One friend commented, “Life is not a race. We need to assist each other and coordinate our efforts so we can build a new society together.” Further, they were inspired by the potential of collective action to multiply the powers and capacities of individuals to transform society. Another person said, “I used to think that we cannot make any change in the world, but after our discussions and study of conference materials, I realized that together we can strive to bring change to society.”

In small workshop groups the youth drew maps of their neighbourhoods, including the spaces in which they interact with others, such as schools, community centres, and parks. This activity helped them think about their social and physical reality, analyzing both the needs and opportunities it presents. Encouraged by their consultations, groups of youth made plans for the ways in which they could include a growing number of people into a conversation that calls on all to lend their talents and energies to the betterment of their communities.

The evening plenary sessions were a colourful mix of sight and sound as participants from across the region shared skits, poetry, songs and traditional cultural dances inspired by their discussions. The auditorium echoed with the notes of a song in Bangla, “Aamra Korbo Joy (We Will Win)”, written for the conference, expressing confidence in the success of the efforts of young people to contribute to the well-being of their communities.

As the final day of the conference in Kolkata came to a close, those gathered recognized the significance of their time together. A spirit of joy that lifted the hearts of all present permeated the atmosphere. With a renewed clarity of vision, the youth returned to their communities, bolstered by the friendships formed and the knowledge that all were working together for change.

  • Over 900 youth attended the gathering

  • Young people between the ages of 15 to 30 came together to consult on how to better serve their communities

  • A spirit of joy and focus imbued the atmosphere

  • Discussions began in large groups and then broke into smaller ones in order to explore the ideas in light of their local realities

  • Youth from the same community gather to consult and plan

  • New friendships were forged between participants throughout the conference

  • Participants were encouraged to share their insights with each other

  • One group shares artistic presentations of a concept explored in their

  • Music and the arts were a large component of the conference, bringing joy to all those who participated

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