“Every generation of youth, drawing inspiration from the same divine impulse to cast the world anew, has seized the opportunity to contribute to the latest stage in the unfolding process that is to transform the life of humankind.” 
This was the central conviction underlying the online youth conference I took part in last weekend. The conference was inspired by the Bahá’í Faith, but was open to all. Through poetry, arts and crafts, drama, and through multimedia study and discussion, we explored themes related to the period of youth, overcoming racism and responding to the pandemic, the role of service to humanity in our lives, and the constructive and destructive forces operating in our society.
By working alongside other youth I have come to increasingly appreciate how a group of friends can be galvanised into action by a collective vision of the future. A vision of both the individual we can become, and the society we can build. The former comprises those potentialities of the soul which we strive daily to cultivate and put into practice—qualities such as generosity, humility, and courage—and the latter encompassing the contribution we make to the welfare and transformation of our communities, over a lifetime. In the words of one young teenager: “Service is very important because it helps others and, at the same time, it builds your character.”
“I’ve been thinking on a life of false choices.
A fragmented self and a head of different voices.
A fragmented world that’s left us feeling so exploited.
And apathy is a poison really best avoided.
I needed a goal to unify my purpose.
To live coherently on this wide path of service.
Reaching for qualities that lie deeper than the surface.
Firing up a love for God, hotter than a furnace.”
Excerpt from a poem composed at the youth conference
As youth, we often share a feeling of dissonance with society. Against the backdrop of a society that portrays this age group as problematic, unresponsive, and self-consumed, the youth conferences are moving in the opposite direction, seeing in youth altruism, an acute sense of justice, and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world. The noble aspirations of many youth rise above the materialism and apathy that permeate the spaces in which we interact with others not least on social media, in university, and the workplace. As we struggle to navigate these complex social forces, we can draw on spiritual powers to directly combat negative influences. We combat materialism with detachment, arrogance with humility, and fanaticism with an all-embracing love. However, we must not forget that we do not walk a path of service alone, but in the company of others. In the words of a dear friend:
“Before the conference I thought of service as something you do only by yourself, it was daunting and difficult. But then I realised that you have something to give to others and others have something to give to you. You can ask for help. And when people come together with a united vision it’s more feasible to achieve something together.”
This is why Faiths United Youth Network is such an exciting opportunity. Not only are we a group of friends walking a path of service together, we also each have access to a unique spiritual source and it is the extent to which its members draw on this spiritual resource that its ultimate success depends.
“Undoubtedly, it is within your power to contribute significantly to shaping the societies of the coming century; youth can move the world.” 
This is an ever expanding conversation which youth can spearhead. You can take part too! Discuss with your friends the part young people play in creating a better world. Here are some questions to get you going:
- How do you view the role of your generation in society? What high purpose shapes your individual and collective actions?
- Discuss the positive effect that service has on spiritual and intellectual growth and on the capacity of the younger generation to contribute to social progress.
Further resources to explore
A compilation of poems written during the youth conference.
A series of short films highlighting aspects of the conversation amongst participants of youth conferences all around the world.
Materials from the youth conferences and what youth do inspired by the Bahá’í Writings.
To get involved, or for any more questions and information feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or +447923509617.
 From a message dated 1 July 2013 written by the Universal House of Justice to the participants in the forthcoming 114 youth conferences throughout the world.
 From a message dated 3 January 1984 written by the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’í Youth of the World.