At last they arrived. As the afternoon turned late, in the quiet setting of Kaphuka Private School, secluded from the bustle of Blantyre, a city about 15 kilometres away, streams of youth reached their destination, in some cases after more than 10 hours of travel under arduous conditions. Organizers of the youth conference had hired a bus service; however, arrangements fell through at the last minute, leaving many participants in the region without a means of reaching the venue. Undaunted, the youth on the one hand and the task force on the other, collaborated and found creative ways to overcome the obstacle. They used every means of transportation available, from minibuses, lorries, private cars and bicycle taxis, which required some to leave their homes before sunrise. In the end, all 756 youth arrived safely, and with enthusiastic spirits and joyful faces, each took their turn registering in the brightly painted office of the school.
On the first morning of the conference, the youth were greeted by Continental Counsellor Maina Mkandawire, present as one of the representatives of the Universal House of Justice. She shared the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá regarding service: “No deed in the world is nobler than service to the common good.” Counsellor Mkandawire encouraged the participants to each contribute to creating an atmosphere of learning over the three days of the conference, an atmosphere conducive to their spiritual empowerment and personal transformation.
“At this youth conference I have learned that no matter how small and young I am, I still have something to offer to the world.”
A participant at the conference
Throughout the weekend, participants shared skits, songs and poetry, all expressive of insights gained from study of the conference materials. Before breaking into the first morning workshops, one youth presented his poem, ‘Unali kuti iwe Bahá'í Youth conference?’, which translated means ‘where were you Bahá'í Youth Conference?’ The poem expressed his long held desire to see the youth of Malawi arise and help one another contribute to positive change in their communities by studying Bahá’u’lláh’s Teachings and applying them to individual and collective life.
Continental Counsellor Christopher Songok, shared an analogy with the youth which highlighted that even a small group who begin to work together for change can have a mighty impact. He commented that despite the small size of a matchstick, it still has the potential to burn down huge forests. He encouraged the youth not to dwell on how small their numbers may be, nor to think of their weaknesses. Instead, he asked them to try, and to know that with God’s assistance they will be confirmed in their efforts to contribute to the betterment of their communities.
One participant commented, “At this youth conference I have learned that no matter how small and young I am, I still have something to offer to the world.”
Throughout their consultations, the participants of the conference recognized the opportunity before them. One youth commented during the plenary session, “Youth should understand the weight of the responsibility entrusted to them by the Universal House of Justice, one of fostering an environment in which the younger members of society can attain the spiritual and intellectual powers needed to become builders of a new civilization.”
Participants travelled to the conference by car, busses, and bicycle taxis
Some groups traveled for 10 hours to reach the conference
Youth waiting to register for the conference at the Kaphuka Private School
Over 750 youth attended the conference in Blantyre, Malawi
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 participated enthusiastically in the workshop sessions
Workshop sessions included discussions on the role of youth in assisting those younger than themselves
Devotions were shared before the conference sessions
Young people reflected on the ways they could contribute to community building efforts in their home communities
Friends took turns sharing songs