From Kabondo Dianda, they came long distances on foot. They rode in a vehicle that was constantly breaking down. They slept in the bush, under an open sky illumined only by the light of stars. This group of 23 young people travelled for almost an entire week, a distance of 600 kilometres, to join their peers at the youth conference in Lubumbashi. The most cherished aspiration in their hearts was to participate, and finally, at 11:00 a.m. on the final day, they arrived, adorned with smiles and undiminished resolve.
“We had to participate in the conference, even if we had just made it for one minute before the closing prayer,” one of these youth declared emphatically.
“The message of the Universal House of Justice allows us to build a new world in which youth have a great responsibility to contribute, regardless of their circumstances.”
A participant at the conference
In an atmosphere infused with such an ardent and joyful desire to understand the vision of the Universal House of Justice for the youth of the world described in its 1 July message, over 1,300 young people gathered in Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from 16 to 18 August.
“We feel like we are among family,” one person shared. “The message of the Universal House of Justice allows us to build a new world in which youth have a great responsibility to contribute, regardless of their circumstances.” The youth discussed how this opportunity can be seized, using not only material but also spiritual means to overcome negative influences, and, in the face of growing materialism, distinguishing between forces that are beneficial and those that hinder their efforts.
At the opening of each day of the conference, hearts were uplifted by songs, prayers, and readings from sacred Writings, enveloping the gathering with a devotional spirit in a city where thousands of friends meet regularly to say prayers. As they strive to draw on mounting spiritual forces in their efforts, they are beginning to see signs of the movement of a population towards Bahá‘u’lláh’s vision of a prosperous and peaceful world. Nearly 3,000 children are participating in classes for their moral education; more than 2,000 younger youth, in groups that channel their surging energies; and some 300 in study groups that draw on the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and apply them to individual and collective life. The ways of thinking and acting being learned by all those engaged are shaping new patterns of interaction in their community—in which children, siblings, parents, women, and men of all ages and experiences rejoice in supporting one another to serve in every aspect of life. Participants reflected on the capacity for united and systematic action being built in their city by watching the segment of Frontiers of Learning that was filmed in Lubumbashi.
One young person from the Mbote people said that before the conference, a friend had visited him and explained that the Teachings of Bahá‘u’lláh would allow all peoples to live together like brothers and sisters. “Finding myself here, I am proud because I have seen that this is not a dream but a living reality,” he said, expressing, like many others assembled, his eagerness to share what he had learned at the conference with others upon returning home.
“I will work night and day to make this world better,” one group of youth from the neighbourhoods of Lubumbashi sang together. “People of Europe, Asia, America, Oceania, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, let’s strive side by side for the progress of civilization.”
Community members collaborated to register participants and distribute materials
The conference started with a plenary session
Participants went into smaller groups to study the materials
Youth shared insights with others from their communities
The hall frequently resounded with songs the youth had composed
Conversations in the study groups were thoughtful and uplifting
Participants reflected on how they could encourage their younger counterparts
Friends from like-minded community groups volunteered to help serve meals
Participants consult about the conference themes in a group
Songs touched on themes such as unity, the role of youth, and the need to arise and act