Youth discuss how to create a new way of life

Posted: 2014/07/29
A group photo of the Calgary youth conference.  Photo: Dacia Caney

A group photo of the Calgary youth conference.
Photo: Dacia Caney

This past weekend, youth gathered in Montreal, Que. and Calgary, Alta. reflected on how the peoples of the world could create a “new way of life, a new civilization, a new model, something completely different” from what they have now. More than 160 youth participated in the conference in Montreal and more than 130 participated in the conference in Calgary, which was held at the University of Calgary. Youth from Morley, a settlement associated with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, made beautiful hand-painted banners to decorate the venue in Calgary. Collages of pictures from the 114 youth conferences which took place around the world last year, and pictures of youth serving in Alberta also decorated the walls. Youth travelling together in a van from Edmonton to Calgary wrote a song about the conference as they made their way there.

A cake made by the sibling of a participant in the Montreal youth conference.

A cake made by the sibling of a participant in the Montreal youth conference.

At the conference in Calgary, youth explored through both discussion and the arts – especially drumming, dancing and skits – various elements necessary for building a better world. They shared examples of how small acts can contribute to making the world better. One youth noted that when one person makes an effort to help another, they can restore that person’s faith in humanity. Another youth explained that it is in service to one’s community that “we grow, we collaborate, we learn about all aspects of our life” and contribute to making the world a better place. The youth noted that one powerful way they could contribute to the transformation of society was to work with the young adolescents in their communities. A youth from Morley said that every time he calls home and talks to his young adolescent siblings, he is reminded of the need to be a role-model to them, gains courage and feels empowered to contribute to his community.

The youth also discussed the importance of creating environments in which people become true friends, support each other, give each other hope and help each other to grow. At least one group demonstrated the importance of these environments practically by sitting back to back on the ground with their arms linked, and standing up together. The youth also made plans for acts of service they could undertake in their communities and endeavoured to call and text the youth who were unable to attend the conference to involve them in the planning. Some of the youth have made plans to expand the number of junior youth in junior youth groups, while others decided to begin a “friendship café” and participate in a community gardening project to expand their circle of friends. A group from the north of Alberta and a group from the south will meet again in early January.

Participants in the Montreal  conference.

Participants in the Montreal conference.

The youth also tried to better understand the society they are living in. They noted that it is a special time in history in which humanity is moving towards its long-awaited maturity. They tried to understand how two inseparable processes – one of disintegration and the other of integration – are moving humanity forward. The forces of disintegration are visible in the violence, war and corruption of a collapsing world, while the forces of integration are related to the spiritual forces released by the coming of Bahá’u’lláh. The youth noted that the forces of disintegration cause confusion and suffering, but also remove barriers to unity between people. In order to better understand the concept of disintegration, the youth reflected on the impact of floods and forest fires which the region has experienced. One of the youth noted that the 2013 Calgary flood “caused a lot of destruction – disintegration,” but that through it the community came together and offered their homes to strangers. The youth remembered seeing a picture in a newspaper with the explanation: “I lost my home, but I gained a community.”

Another theme that the youth discussed was the centrality of religion in the transformation of society. Counsellor Dan Scott noted that religion is a powerful force that has inspired the development of communities and civilizations, and invited the youth to reflect on the value of religion in contributing to both the advancement of the individual and the advancement of society.

Young people in the York North cluster in Ontario create art work in preparation for the Toronto conference.

Young people in the York North cluster in Ontario create art work in preparation for the Toronto conference. Photo: Crystal Eckstrand

Reports and pictures have also reached us from other parts of the country. A group that attended the Halifax conference two weeks ago has had a follow-up meeting inviting their friends who were unable to attend the conference to participate. Groups in Ontario and British Columbia are preparing art work, fundraising, and inviting their friends to study the institute courses and to join them in service in their communities as their conferences approach.

More broadly, people of all ages are taking advantage of these summer months when, in many parts of the country, it is a good time to meet new people. Many are studying the institute courses and learning to engage their friends, co-workers and neighbours in conversations about the significance of Bahá’u’lláh and His Revelation for humanity, and how it can be applied to transform individuals, families, communities and institutions. The youth conferences will undoubtedly lend impetus to these efforts to build community.