Bahai News - Youth Congress in Ecuador dedicated to service and transformation
Youth Congress in Ecuador dedicated to service and
OTAVALO, Ecuador, 29 August 2000 (BWNS) -- More than 500 young people from
South and Central America gathered here from 9 to 14 August for a Baha'i
Youth Movement Congress dedicated to "Service and Transformation: The
Challenge of this Generation."
It was the latest in a series of large youth gatherings that have taken
place this year throughout the Americas, beginning in Paraguay in
January and in El Salvador, Dominican Republic and Canada in July. Their
focus has been to galvanize the youth to become catalysts for the
spiritual transformation needed to break through the protracted social
conflicts that afflict the continent, such as race and class prejudice,
corruption, violence, poverty, and social injustice.
In a letter addressed to the youth of Latin America in January, the
Universal House of Justice, supreme governing body of the Baha'i Faith,
called on them to become "invincible champions of justice."
"Be not dismayed if your endeavors 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," the letter stated.
The Baha'i youth movement is a global social movement that draws
inspiration from the heroes and martyrs in the early history of the
Baha'i Faith, many of whom were in their teens and twenties and who
consecrated their lives to the spiritual regeneration of mankind. In the
century and a half since the Faith was established, each generation of
youth has drawn strength from their example to strive for moral
excellence, good character, and service to humanity.
The first day of the Congress focused on how to accelerate the
transformation of Latin American society by drawing on this rich
"We had a wonderful talk from Eloy Anello in which he called on us to
become the 'living martyrs' of the West, to follow in the steps of our
'spiritual forebears' …and perform heroic acts," Paola Dumet, a
member of the National Youth Committee of Ecuador, reported. Mr. Anello
is a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors in the Americas.
The talk was followed with drama and other artistic presentations that
called to remembrance the lives and deeds of the early martyrs of the
Faith. The second day of the Congress focused on individual
transformation and the establishment of a distinctive Baha'i way of
life. Workshops were held on such themes as courtship and marriage,
service and family life, striving for excellence in studies and
professional life, and freedom from vices and addictions. The underlying
message of these workshops was that Baha'i youth can best become
catalysts for social change and influence their peers by exemplifying
the highest standards of moral excellence in their own lives. As stated
in the Baha'i writings, such things as "chastity, politeness,
friendliness, hospitality, joyous optimism about the ultimate future
happiness and well-being of mankind, should distinguish them and win
over to them the love and admiration of their fellow youth."
The remainder of the Congress focused on the many practical lines of
action open to the youth in their individual or collective efforts. The
youth of the Ruhi Institute of Colombia presented a workshop on the
training process that has been used in rural areas for large-scale
development of human resources and moral capacity. Workshops were
presented on the use of the arts, study circles, year of service
opportunities (where youth offer one or two years of full-time volunteer
service), and pioneering (the practice of settling in another country to
assist in the development of the Baha'i community). An exposition was
held for representatives of each country to present information about
"One of the objectives of the Congress was to share the experiences of
the other countries and widen our vision of the Baha'i youth movement
and understand that what we were doing in each country is part of the
Movement," Ms. Dumet said. "We were able to feel as part of a single
great movement in all of the Americas."
A group of youth representing all the countries present met to draft a
congress declaration that was symbolically ratified on the final evening
as all the youth rose to their feet. The youth were named "Spiritual
Chasquis" after the term used in the Andes for the messengers who ran
from one city to another carrying messages for the Inca.
"In this way we all pledged to carry the message of the Baha'i Youth
Movement and share it with all our generation," Ms. Dumet reported.
The next morning a closing festival was held to celebrate the unity in
diversity of the Latin American youth. Some of the local authorities
were present, including the mayor of Otavalo who is the first indigenous
elected official in Otavalo. "[The mayor] was attracted by the great
diversity of the youth and the artistic presentations of young
indigenous Baha'is from Ecuador and Peru," Ms. Dumet reported. As the
youth bade their farewells, groups were organized for post-congress
outreach campaigns throughout the country.
"I think for all of us, this historic event for the future of the Baha'i
Youth Movement of the Americas was something unforgettable and affected
the hearts of all the participants; and most importantly we all left
inspired and with energy to take concrete action in our communities,"
The youth movement has made extensive use of the Internet for organizing
and exchanging information. The Congress Web site at
http://come.to/congreso-ecuador contains the Congress declaration,
workshop materials, and other links and follow-up materials. Other youth
movement portals include www.ibyc2000.org, www.mjb.cl, www.bahaiyouth.org,
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