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Materials from the youth conferences

Contributing to the Advancement of Civilization

Group of seven youth singing together

Among the themes explored during the series of youth conferences held around the world in 2013 and the waves of subsequent gatherings was one specifically related to the advancement of civilization.

The following paragraphs have been extracted from the materials studied by the conferences’ participants on this subject.

The community-building efforts of the Bahá’ís and their friends are not simply good social projects by selfless individuals. They are based on the belief that humanity is living at a very special time in its history. In its development, humankind has passed through stages similar to infancy and adolescence and now stands at the beginning of its maturity. Two inseparable processes, one of disintegration and the other of integration, are moving it forward. The process of disintegration is visible in the violence, war, and corruption that go together with the collapse of an outmoded order now incapable of dealing with the needs of a maturing world. It causes great confusion and suffering but also contributes to removing barriers to unity among people. The process of integration is related to the spiritual forces released with the coming of Bahá’u’lláh. On the one hand, these forces are influencing increasing numbers of people everywhere to work for unity and progress. On the other, they are gradually reshaping society through the conscious efforts of the Bahá’ís and their friends.

…The goal of building a new civilization requires complete change in how society is organized and also in the conduct and behaviour of individuals. In this connection, Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings intend “to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions”.

Essential to civilization building then is accepting that all the people of the world, indeed of every community, are one. The recognition of this vital truth has many implications on the life of a community and of society at large. In this day, all the people of the world have received an equal measure of the favour and mercy of the one true God and, in all their diversity, share the right and duty to contribute to creating a new world. When relationships among members of a community, and between them and the institutions, are characterized by love and justice, all are given the opportunity to use their God-given attributes to advance social good. When spiritual and scientific knowledge is accessible to all, members of a community can together learn to apply it to their collective life. This is related to the community-building endeavours of the Bahá’ís discussed in the previous statement that are intensifying in many clusters, neighbourhoods, and villages across the globe. The change in culture they are fostering is evidence of how a new society emerges from the efforts of growing numbers of people to apply the teachings of God in this day to the life of a growing number of communities.

The implications for the life of an individual who yearns to contribute to advancing civilization are also significant. A person strives to acquire the qualities, attitudes, and abilities of an effective contributor to progress and endows the various aspects of his or her life—education, work, marriage, family life—with a strong sense of mission. Such an individual makes every exertion to conform to the high ideals of the Faith. Learning to avoid prejudices of all kinds, to adhere to a high standard of chastity, and to show rectitude in all interactions with others enables an individual to become an effective actor in the endeavour to change society. In “efforts to achieve personal growth and to uphold Bahá’í ideals,” one is immersed in a purposeful community, an environment in which true unity impels friends of all ages to assist one another attain higher and higher levels of spiritual, moral, and intellectual excellence.

From this perspective then, one who is aware of the potential for creating the world anew that the message of Bahá’u’lláh holds will no doubt find great joy in bringing its inspiration to the people of the world, and enabling them to arise to fulfil their duty as conscious builders of a new civilization.

Reflection questions

How can young people under diverse social conditions ensure that they obtain the most effective education available? How would one’s work or profession serve as a means to contribute to civilization building? What would make it an obstacle?

How can young people properly prepare themselves for marriage and for families that would contribute meaningfully to creating a new society?

What would be the nature of a local community that is able to help its members develop the qualities and abilities of a builder of civilization?

How can youth, upon whom so much of the work of building a new world relies, effectively support each other in order to attain progress in all the various areas of their lives?

Explore materials from the youth conferences

You can read more about this subject in the following articles.