Montreal Bahá'í Youth Conference unlocks transformative power of 20th Century
Arranged by the Montreal Conference Organizing Committee, the Conference attracted youth from 10 countries. Over three days, its site at the Louis-Bourgeois Bahá’í Centre in the Montreal district of Pierrefonds played host to speeches, workshops, and artistic exhibits and presentations including dance, drama and audio-visuals. Attendees were constantly challenged to explore the role of Bahá’í youth in the 20th century, and their responsibilities in the century to come.
“The Century of Light was a tumultuous one,” said 21 year-old Vahid Khamsi, a resident of Princeton, New Jersey. “However, we also had many amazing accomplishments. The 21st century is for the youth. It is our century. It is up to us to lay the foundations for prosperity.”
The Annual Montreal Bahá’í Youth Conference was inaugurated in 1998 to address the pressing theme of Hope for Humanity and Globalization. This year’s conference takes its place among a series of Bahá’í conferences and congresses held throughout the world—a powerful sign of the scope and aspirations of the emerging Bahá’í Youth Movement. Through this Movement, Bahá’í youth aim to constructively channel their energy and enthusiasm towards positive social transformation through the application of spiritual principles.
Ann Boyles, who presented an introduction and overview of Century of Light, remarked: “In order to become a champion of justice you need to know about the world in which you live, the Faith in which you believe, and the relationship between the two.” Stressing awareness of past injustices, Dr. Boyles reminded the audience that “Bahá’ís are not people that look at the world through rose-colored glasses. We have to be realistic. We have to look at what the dark side was, but we can’t be swallowed up by it.”
In addition to exhilarating talks, there were several noteworthy artistic presentations, ranging from an electrifying spoken-word performance by Shani Carter to cultural and thematic dance performances, and a remarkable audio-visual presentation on the past century.
Lindsay McKye, a youth participant from Ontario, Canada, described her previous dread of history classes, saying that she had once found the topic quite boring. After reading Century of Light, she saw the importance of history in her life as a Bahá’í youth and earnestly hoped that others will see its potential as an inspirational vision for world unity.
Reflecting on the contribution of Bahá’í youth the ever-advancing civilization of the 20th century, the document Century of Light states: “No segment of the community made a more energetic or significant contribution to this dramatic process of growth than did Bahá’í youth.”
At the dawn of a new century, Bahá’í youth at the Montreal conference were anxious to contribute to this process in the same spirit as their predecessors. “It doesn’t matter how much the world around you is degraded,” explained Nick Ward, a student of International Development Studies at McGill University. “You yourself can make a difference. Everyone has the ability for change in order to bring about a new global civilization.”
On its third day, the conference ended with youth resolving to put what they had learned into systematic action along three main lines—the establishment or strengthening of study circles, devotional meetings, and community children’s classes. Others were also inspired to start community development programs and dance-theatre workshops within their respective communities.
The conference website, http://www.enlighten.ca/conference, contains information and a collection of photographs from the conference.
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