Vientiane Youth Conference

Laos | 25-27 October 2013

From 25 to 27 October, close to 200 young people gathered in Vientiane, Laos, to consult on the ways in which their generation could contribute to the well-being of their villages and neighbourhoods. Such a gathering was a new experience for the country, and in attendance were several government officials, including young officials who participated in a some of the workshop sessions.

A number of themes were explored in these workshops including the importance of education, both material and spiritual, in a community’s development. One participant said that in his village, many of the children are unable to attend school, and after discussing the role of youth in assisting those younger than themselves, he shared his plan to offer classes for these children that would address their academic and spiritual needs. . “It is so special to be discussing education in light of developing spiritual qualities,” said one young person. “Most of the time at school or work we focus on intellectual development.”

“I understood the vision for this generation in a new way; that we have a very big responsibility, and we are trusted to make a contribution for the well-being of our communities.”

A participant at the conference

During breaks, youth could be seen preparing for the sessions, and exchanging ideas based on their experiences, and singing uplifting songs that added to the joyous atmosphere of the gathering. Evening plenaries included artistic presentations created by the participants and inspired by their study of the conference materials. One group shared a drama depicting the effects of social forces on the younger generation. Another presented a traditional Laotian dance. The theme song of the conference, “Leaves of One Tree”, was joyfully sung by all.

The importance of striving to create an environment in which everyone in a community is assisted, and also assists others, in their efforts to serve was explored. “I like the theme of fostering mutual support. There are so many things that we can begin to change within ourselves. Let us start to make small changes by showing our love and consideration to friends and family members,” said one youth, putting into words what many were thinking.

In the workshops, the participants eagerly made plans for the steps they would take when they return to their communities. In this vein many remarked on the power of young people and the community when they work and support each other and how the efforts of one person working with a group of people can bring change in the community. During the final plenary, youth shared their reflections on their three days together, many describing how from the first day to the last, it was wonderful to meet people from different places and to learn together and share their experiences with one another. They realized that their challenges were similar, and learned many ideas they could use when they returned home. “I understood the vision for this generation in a new way; that we have a very big responsibility, and we are trusted to make a contribution for the well-being of our communities,” said a young man succinctly stating the understanding of many of the participants.

As the final day drew to a close, those gathered stood in a circle and sang the conference theme song, “We are flowers of one garden.” Armed with a clear vision, uplifted hearts, and reinvigorated by the spirit of friendship and collaboration at the conference, they set off to return to their homes, eager to continue to apply the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh towards the advancement of their neighborhoods and villages.

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  • Continental Counsellors, representing the Universal House of Justice, were warmly welcomed

  • The conference was an opportunity for the participants to reflect together about the contribution they can make to the progress of those younger than themselves

  • The atmosphere at the conference was joyful and high-spirited

  • Youth made strategic plans of action to implement in their communities

  • A variety of creative activities helped participants to illustrate the concepts studied

  • Participants shared their insights and plans for when they return home

  • Singing and other arts infused both plenary and group sessions

  • A group photo of the conference participants

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