More updates and pictures from last weekend’s youth conferences

Posted: 2014/07/16
Youth at the Halifax youth conference participated in many activities which contributed to the collective spirit of the conference. Here, they are forming a train.

Youth at the Halifax youth conference participated in many activities which contributed to the collective spirit of the conference. Here, they are forming a train.

This past weekend, more than 200 youth attended three youth conferences called by the National Spiritual Assembly, convened by the Regional Bahá’í Councils and hosted by the communities of Halifax, N.S., Saskatoon, Sask. and Victoria, B.C.

Interactions among participants were characterized by “respect, love and admiration,” wrote one participant at the Halifax conference.

Initial reports from the Halifax conference, held at Mount Saint Vincent University, indicate that adults and youth from both small communities and larger ones, from a diversity of backgrounds, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, invited and supported their young friends to attend the conference. In one case, a group of Bahá’ís from an island off the coast of New Brunswick – comprised largely of retirees – were determined to send a youth from their area to the conference. No Bahá’í youth lived there, so they pushed themselves to think of other youth they could invite. One of the believers thought of a youth that he knew and invited her, and she was able to attend. She had hoped to come with some friends, but none of them could come, so she courageously decided to attend the conference alone. The community arranged for two friends to drive the youth the long distance to the conference.

A small group from south of "The Malahat," B.C. studies together outside.

A small group from south of “The Malahat,” B.C. studies together outside.

The Victoria conference was held at the Songhees Wellness Centre, a centre associated with the Songhees First Nation. The conference was originally intended to be hosted at a school, but the venue was lost due to a teacher’s strike. The Regional Bahá’í Council sent out a call for prayers, and the wellness centre was secured, and six youth associated with the centre decided to participate in the conference. The sign at the entrance to the centre reads: “We are all one.” One of the photos captures a beautiful multi-hued sunset that greeted the organizers and facilitators of the conference when they left after spending the day after the conference reflecting on the experience.

Initial reports from all three conferences indicate that the youth were “touched by spiritual forces more enduring, more deeply rooted than anything that could be elicited by the thrill of fellowship and large numbers alone.”[1] One youth from the Halifax conference commented on how eager the youth were to serve their communities. One individual, who served as a facilitator at the conference, noted that she had gained “a deeper understanding” of how to apply the conference material in her community. Now, individuals, communities, and institutions have the task of reinforcing community building activities so that the “vision and enthusiasm generated by the conferences are ultimately translated into sustained action.” [2]

Another participant wrote that her group had gained an understanding of “what is expected of youth and junior youth.” For example, the Guardian gave the youth “all the responsibility for the upkeep of the spirit of selfless service among their fellow believers.” [3]

Art created at the Victoria conference.

Art created at the Victoria conference.

At all three conferences, participants, facilitators and the institutions supporting them strove to create environments that were both serious and joyful. Two sources of joy and motivation came from an appreciation of the beauty of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, and from understanding. Youth progressed in their understanding by exploring such themes as the characteristics of the period of youth and the responsibilities of the present generation of youth to contribute to the intellectual and spiritual education of their younger peers. They also discussed the role of faith and tenacity in a life of service, nurturing environments of mutual support and assistance, contributing to the development of their clusters, and the society-building power of the Bahá’í Teachings. The youth also made use of the arts to reflect on the conference materials and to share their insights with others.

Here are pictures from the three conferences which you can view in a gallery format by clicking on one of the pictures.

Halifax Conference: Please note that more pictures and written reflections can be found on the Bahá’í Community of Halifax Regional Municipality website.

Victoria Conference

Saskatoon Conference

We will post more pictures, reports, anecdotes, and insights from the three Canadian youth conferences that have already taken place, and the seven more conferences to take place as we receive them.

[1] Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.320

[2} Universal House of Justice, 5 December 2013.

[3] Universal House of Justice, 25 February 2013.

[4] Universal House of Justice, 8 February 2013.