“Be not dismayed if your endeavours are dismissed as utopian by the voices that would oppose any suggestion of fundamental change. Trust in the capacity of this generation to disentangle itself from the embroilments of a divided society. To discharge your responsibilities, you will have to show forth courage, the courage of those who cling to standards of rectitude, whose lives are characterised by purity of thought and action, and whose purpose is directed by love and indomitable faith. As you dedicate yourselves to healing the wounds with which your peoples have been afflicted, you will become invincible champions of justice…”
Excerpt from a Letter to the youth of Paraguay
from the Universal House of Justice , 6 January 1998
So, you’ve heard the news. In a letter dated 8 February 2013, the Universal House of Justice announced the convocation of 95 youth conferences across the globe. And whether you live in Kinshasa or Kiribati, in Auckland or Atlanta, in Chisinau or Cochabamba, you’re hyped. The excitement is coursing through your veins like a fever, and the only prescription is for summer to come as quickly as possible.
But why wait? You can start preparing right now for your local youth conference, whether it’s in July, October or any time in between. Here are five little tips—call them humble suggestions—that can help you pass the time constructively until the time for your local youth conference rolls around.
- Brush up on the latest guidance. You’ve probably read the 8 February 2013 message already; why not take a half-hour out of your morning to study it a little more? You’ll get a sense of what the 95 conferences will be all about, and why exactly the Universal House of Justice is calling on you right now. If you haven’t managed to get yourself a copy of the letter yet, get in touch with the closest Spiritual Assembly or Auxiliary Board Member, and ask if they could send it over. And while you’re at it, make plans to study other important pieces of guidance, too. The 2010 Ridván message is a good one, as are the 28 December 2010 and 12 December 2011 messages.
- Get trained up—especially with Ruhi Book 5. Having brushed up on the latest guidance, you’ll probably see a trend emerge: the empowerment of junior youth is a big deal, and a huge part of the Plan. Without knowing much more about the content of the upcoming conferences, then, it’s a safe bet that involvement with junior youth will feature prominently. Getting trained in Book 5 of the Ruhi curriculum—Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth—will give you one up when your local conference rolls around. And beyond that, don’t forget that Ruhi Book 8—The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh—is being piloted worldwide, and may be available in your area. Studying either one of these is transformative enough on its own—imagine two in a row!
- Pick a path of service. The call of the Universal House of Justice is pretty clear: we are standing at a pivotal moment in history. “For the present generation,” they wrote in their 8 February letter, “the moment has come to reflect, to commit, to steel themselves for a life of service from which blessing will flow in abundance.” Naturally, we might wonder: Can I really do a “life of service”? What should I be doing to serve? Well as they say, every journey starts with a single step, and the first step into service is just to pick something and start doing it. Maybe you’ve studied Book 5 and found it awesome, so you might decide to dedicate yourself to empowering and inspiring junior youth. Or maybe you’ve found that you’re best at teaching younger children, or studying the Word of God with other youth or adults, or sharing prayers with others, or visiting those who are isolated or ill, and so on. Wherever it is that your talents lie, you can focus on using them to serve mankind. And if you’re not sure where your path lies, then it doesn’t hurt just to try something out to gain some experience.
- Get to know your neighbourhood. Go back ten or fifteen years and ask any youth where they planned to go and offer a year of service, and you’d get a list of destinations scattered across the planet. Nowadays, though, don’t be surprised if you hear friends telling you they’ll be staying right where they are. The focus for service is shifting closer and closer to home—from your own city to your neighbourhood. Whether or not you have concrete plans to serve, a great way to prepare is to just look at your neighbourhood. Are there a lot of young families, elderly couples, single mothers? Do they have young children or junior youth? What are their pastimes, their concerns, and their hopes for the future? The more you learn about your neighbours, the better you can build close, loving connections that will not only enable you to serve better, but uplift the whole community.
- Pray, meditate, and conquer yourself. This might just be one of the most important things you can do to prepare. When Shoghi Effendi learned that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had appointed him as the Guardian, he retreated for a long time to Switzerland in order to pray and meditate, until he conquered himself—at which point he returned to the Holy Land to become the Guardian. Prayer gives us strength to meet life’s challenges. In fact, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá assures us that if we pray for strength, it will be given to us, “no matter how difficult the conditions”—no matter how reluctant, inadequate and powerless we may feel. And through meditation and reflection, He explains, one “receives the breath of the Holy Spirit”; meditation “frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God.” The challenge laid before us by the Universal House of Justice will require us to reflect, to commit, and to steel ourselves, calling on a strength that is beyond ourselves, and relying on an abundant flow of blessings—and to accomplish this, deepening our spiritual life through prayer, meditation and reflection will be essential.
Now that the season of the Bahá’í Fast is upon us, we’re joining with Bahá’ís of all ages in every nation in abstaining from food and drink, and, above all, engaging in the more important spiritual Fast, with all the self-reflection, prayer and meditation that it entails. Soon enough, Naw-ruz will be here, ushering a new year full of promise and opportunity—the opportunity for young people across the world “to make a contribution to the fortunes of humanity, unique to their time of life.” What better time than now to start preparing ourselves—reflecting, committing, and steeling ourselves to play our part in writing the future?
“What has been accomplished in the past two years will, surely, be far surpassed, not just in the concluding years of this present Plan but in the remaining years of the first century of the Formative Age. To spur on this mighty enterprise and to summon today’s youth to fully assume the responsibilities they must discharge in this fast-contracting interval, we announce the convocation of 95 youth conferences, between July and October, planned for locations that span the globe…”
The Universal House of Justice
We thought the idea of 41 regional conferences was pretty wild and amazing. When we heard the news that the Universal House of Justice was inviting us to gather and reflect on the process of community growth with fellow collaborators from around our regions, we knew we had to stand up and take note. But we may never have suspected the magnitude of what was to follow. Introducing a series of 95—that’s right, ninety-five—youth conferences, to be held this year between July and October. Their aim will be to give young people the opportunity to learn about contributing to the betterment of their communities through the Junior Youth Empowerment Program.
The announcement had barely made its way around the globe before my friend Ilya went ahead and mapped out each one of the coming 95 conferences on Google Maps, so you can look for yourself and see which one will be held closest to your area. Check up on doberman pizza in coming days—and of course, keep your eyes on your inbox—for more on this exciting news! (Update, May 2013: The Universal House of Justice recently announced plans for another 19 youth conferences worldwide. Wow!)
so I travelled down to Sherbrooke this past weekend, to visit my friends – the Baha’i youth – and to welcome back Catherine and Geneviève, who’ve been serving in Gabon for the past eight months and a half. It was a treat and a pleasure to see every one of them – I truly enjoyed myself, and felt none of the anxiety I sometimes experience when I’m in social situations. I think I must truly love these youth. I’m certainly proud of their level of energy, their great love for each other, and their willingness to bend their efforts to fulfill the Plan of God for this Day. Remember the Canadian Baha’i National Convention, where Baha’i institutions announced their intention to establish 40-odd intensive programs of growth across Canada to help meet the goals of the current Five Year Plan given to us by the Universal House of Justice? Sherbrooke’s Baha’i community is among those targeted for growth. And to know the Baha’is who live there, you know they’re ready. The love and devotion expressed in that community is awesome. I just hope I can share a part of their path.
C’était avec une grande joie que j’ai pu me rendre à Sherbrooke cette fin de semaine pour célébrer le retour au Canada de Catherine et Geneviève, deux jeunes baha’ies de l’Estrie qui sont parties au Gabon pour presque neuf mois pour enseigner la Foi baha’ie et servir l’humanité. Il y avait plein de monde là pour fêter leur retour, y compris la famille, leurs amis du cégep et de l’université, et bien sûr une gang de jeunes baha’is. Et bien sûr il y avait plein de bouffe (du barbecue, sous une averse de pluie). On a beaucoup jasé, et puis bien sûr on a pris le temps de regarder tous leurs photos du Gabon en format diaporama, avec leurs commentaires. À la fin de la soirée,
on est allé voir des films on s’est loué un X-box on a enlevé les tresses à Catherine et on s’est couché tard. Le lendemain, après un bon déjeûner, du bon jasage et un fracas au Pictionary, moi, David et Karine ont repris la route pour Ottawa.
Ça me fait remémorer mes années de service au Québec de revoir Cat et Gege, de les entendre raconter leurs histoires de bonheur et de malheur. Il y a quelque chose qui se passe quand on est pionnier pour sa Foi qui provoque un changement, non, une transformation profonde, et ce pour tous et chacun sans exception. Ça m’a vraiment touché d’être ramené à réfléchir sur cette transformation en l’observant dans les autres.
Cette transformation intérieure dans nous-mêmes provoque des changements externes, bien sûr – on devient plus à l’aise avec le service parce qu’on connaît ça. On comprend mieux ceux qui souffrent, qui se sentent seuls ou désespérés, parce qu’on a vécu ça. Et, du moins je l’espère, on comprend un peu mieux ce que ça veut dire d’aimer Dieu et de s’en remettre à Lui. Tous ceux qui songent à servir en tant que pionnier, et même ceux qui se demandent s’ils auront jamais la force ou la foi ou le détachement nécessaire pour une telle affaire, faites-moi confiance – allez-y, et mettez le doute à côté. Et ceux qui ne peuvent pas? Participez dans les programmes intensifs de croissance, joignez-vous à un cercle d’étude, ou, si vous êtes animateur, offrez-en un à votre cercle d’amis qui cherchent à connaître la foi baha’ie, ses écrits et ses principes. Chacun de nous peut laisser son empreinte et contribuer au Plan Divin.
C’est tout pour l’instant, mais gardez l’oeil ouvert pour des photos de la fin de semaine sur mon site flickr!
look alive, it’s tonight… make your way over and join us! let’s show Counsellor Scott how ready we are to “storm the gates of heaven” and throw our lot in to the work of the Five Year Plan!
We may well emulate Bahá’í youth whose recent surge forward into the van of proclamation and teaching is one of the most encouraging and significant trends in the Faith, and who storm the gates of heaven for support in their enterprises by long-sustained, precedent and continuing prayer. We are all able to call upon Bahá’u’lláh for His Divine, all-powerful aid, and He will surely help us. For He is the Hearer of prayers, the Answerer.
(Ridván Message, 1972 / 129 B.E.,
from the Universal House of Justice)
Addendum: The meeting was powerful, inspiring and challenging… the call to arise and serve was given – and one of the most simple and practical ways we can arise is to go through the sequence of Ruhi courses, and make sure we get the practice done! Visiting people in their homes, studying prayers with them, and offering our service in the core activities (study circles, devotional meetings, children’s classes, and junior youth groups) – that’s where it’s at… One thing that really stuck out for me: we grow spiritually the more we try to change the society around us… we can’t grow spiritually by just talking or sitting at home. If we want to really fulfill our life’s purpose and become better people we have to go out into the world, serve, teach, try our best to reflect the names and attributes of God, and little by little change the way things happen around us.
The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ottawa is urging all youth to take advantage of the unique opportunity to meet with Counsellor Dan Scott at 40 Landry, Friday night, May 5th, starting at 7:30 PM.
OK, everybody. We all know Friday night is sacred time when we wind down from our busy week and either go out, veg out, or freak out over homework. Now imagine making that sacred time even more sacred by devoting it to God and to the service of humanity – and finding out how you can contribute to the achievement of the goals of the new Five Year Plan. Sounds good, huh?
You may not yet be convinced. That’s fine. You can argue with me, you can argue with my mom, and you can even argue with Marty. But you can’t argue with Shoghi Effendi:
It is to the youth that the Guardian is today eagerly looking, and it is upon their shoulders that he is laying all the responsibility for the promotion of the Faith. Theirs is the opportunity to arise and serve to their utmost this great Cause of God.
(June 6, 1933 – Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day)