The central African country of Chad is a rich tapestry of diversity. From arid deserts in the north to lush tropical lowlands in the south, where nearly 50 inches of rain falls between May and October, it is also home to a wide variety of cultures and peoples speaking nearly 100 languages and dialects. This diversity was beautifully displayed from 2 to 4 August, when 1,200 youth from across the country gathered in Sarh to discuss how to walk together in a common path of service.
In choosing the location for the conference, the organizing committee faced several challenges, not the least of which was when, several weeks before the gathering was to be held, the original estimate of 500 participants dramatically expanded to over 1,000. But with characteristic determination, the organizers adapted, making the necessary arrangements.
The conference began with the participants reflecting on the 1 July message of the Universal House of Justice calling them to work together to “cultivate and sustain a spiritually enriching pattern of community life”. The young people then moved into large and small workshops, focusing on several conference themes such as how they could support one another and, resisting the forces of materialism and self-centeredness, arise in service to their communities. To illustrate this theme, a participant shared the story of how one day, while on vacation, he and his friends had been playing cards, when another friend, who was actively engaged in doing service in the community, invited them to help him fix the street which had flooded because of the heavy rains. This youth shared that he found such happiness in this simple yet meaningful act of service that he now seeks out opportunities to join with others to help his community such as tutoring younger youth with their school work.
Many of the conference participants came with friends from various religious backgrounds who were especially moved when they learned that the Bahá’í community was making efforts to offer spiritual education classes for children and facilitate moral empowerment groups for younger youth that were open to everyone, regardless of their cultural background or religious beliefs.
In the evenings, groups from each region of the country prepared and presented skits, songs and dances that reflected what they had learned during the weekend. One group presented a song that they wrote called the “Anthem of the Conference” which contained lyrics on how the participants came together in Sarh to learn about the importance of helping young people.
Throughout the conference, a spirit of fellowship, thoughtful study, and the sounds of joyful music were evident as groups would break into song during conference sessions and workshops. At the end of the weekend it was this spirit they carried back to their homes and villages, along with their plans to work toward the spiritual and material advancement of their communities.
Young people traveled from the eight major regions of the country to get to the conference
While originally expecting only 500 participants, the conference brought together over 1,200
Youth reflected on how they could be of service to those younger than themselves
Workshops took place indoors and outdoors
A number of young children brought additional joy to the attendees
A feature of one evening was a showing of part of the film “Frontiers of Learning”
Young people planned how they could serve together to advance their communities
One group shared a song about the weekend called “Anthem of the Conference”
Discussions began in large groups and then broke into smaller ones in order to explore the ideas in light of their local realities
Throughout the weekend the spirit of fellowship was heightened by joyful singing
The participants left the conference eager to put into practice the things they had learned