For Bahá’ís, the years of youth are a special time of high potential. Indeed, the young have been at the forefront of activity at every notable point in the history of the Bahá’í faith. From the Faith’s inception, youth have played an outstanding role as some of the Faith’s foremost champions and teachers. The Báb was only twenty-five years old when He declared His mission. ‘Abdu’l-Baha served His Father, Bahá’u’lláh, from a very young age. Shoghi Effendi was a student when he assumed his responsibilities as Guardian of the Faith at the age of twenty two. And a host of other youth sacrificed themselves as martyrs and teachers for the Cause.
There can be no definitive list of what Bahá’í youth do, but a lot does get done. From years spent abroad helping people to realize a sustainable future, to litter collecting in inner-cities, to teaching children basic principles of morality at community schools – each young member of the Bahá’í community is encouraged to take responsibility both for his own development and for contributing to the well-being of others. Many choose to devote an entire year to some form of service to humanity. Known as a Year of Service, this experience frequently sets the pattern for a life of generosity of time, energy, finances and spirit.
Young Bahá’ís actively contribute to decision-making processes, and understand that their efforts will exercise greater influence when informed by the experiences and successes of others. In this way, they seek to maximize the effect of their efforts to serve humanity by placing their creativity in a framework of coherent and structured plans.
The Bahá’í community is able to provide encouragement to its young members by giving them real responsibility for its affairs and imparting a profound sense of ownership of shared goals. Each Bahá’í, whether young or old, listens to and learns from others: there is a tangible sense of moving forward together. The motivating impulse is one of love for humanity. The Bahá’í community also places great emphasis on the moral and spiritual education of children and youth, with a focus on providing ongoing opportunities for developing a sense of world citizenship and a lifelong commitment to serve humanity.
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