Inspiring young people to serve others

January 1, 2004

HLUBOKA, Czech Republic — A six-day gathering to inspire Baha'i youth to make their contribution to the welfare of humanity attracted participants from more than 30 countries.

The world's suffering was a "call to action," a keynote speaker told participants at the "Changing Times" seminar, which was held at the Townshend International School here from 26 December 2003 to 1 January 2004.

"Today we are witnessing the disintegration of international order," said Robert Henderson, the secretary-general of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States.

"Sovereign states are unable to stop the spread of terrorism and war, to stabilize the world economy or to alleviate the sufferings of millions," said Dr. Henderson, drawing on analysis by Shoghi Effendi and messages from the Universal House of Justice.

Baha'i youth, he said, should strive to become examples of the transforming power of Baha'u'llah.

They should "elevate the atmosphere" in which they live, face challenges with confidence and become the embodiment of excellence in their personal lives, academic training, professions, and spiritual qualities.

The atmosphere of the seminar was characterized by the joy and camaraderie of the some 220 participants. In addition to the many European Baha'is, attendees came from places as far away as Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

The program also featured a talk by Hamid Peseschkian, a psychiatrist who spoke on marriage preparation, and Lesley Taherzadeh, who addressed aspects of Baha'i history.

Vahid and Martha Khadem-Missagh. Slideshow
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Vahid and Martha Khadem-Missagh.

Ms. Taherzadeh spoke about the heroes and heroines of the Faith -- and she offered a moving tribute to her late husband, Adib Taherzadeh, a renowned Baha'i author who served on the Universal House of Justice.

Ardawan Lalui, the project director of the Townshend School, spoke about applying Baha'i principles to the workplace.

Topics by other speakers included the importance of ethics in business and the equality of men and women.

Workshops aimed at inspiring the youth to incorporate Baha'i principles into their lives included a focus on two current themes in Baha'i activities worldwide -- the arts in Baha'i community life (led by Inder Manocha), and the importance of devotional meetings (led by Katrina Modabber).

Both of those workshop topics were illustrated in the program itself. Among the artistic performances were those by international prize-winning violinists Martha and Vahid Khadem-Missagh, who performed with their father, Bijan, at the official opening of the Terraces of the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa in May 2001.

Stand-up comedian Inder Manocha, who performed at the "Best of the Edinburgh Festival Showcase" and has appeared on BBC programs, provided an evening of comedy.

A devotional meeting, in which music and the arts provided an uplifting atmosphere, was one of the highlights of the seminar.

The seminar was dedicated to two much beloved Baha'is who passed away in 2003 -- the Hand of the Cause of God Ali-Akbar Furutan, and former member of the Universal House of Justice David Hofman.

The Changing Times seminar, organized by European Baha'i youth, was first held in 2002 and is scheduled to become an annual event.