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OUR children and youth represent a great source of intellectual and social potential waiting to be developed and channelled towards socially constructive ends — towards building a just, peaceful and prosperous society.
The National Youth Day on June 16 symbolises the desire of the youth for peace.
It is associated with their hopes for a better education in preparation for a brighter future — a future in which their energy, their great capacities and talents are channelled towards the transformation of society and advancement of civilisation.
Parents and educators have, today, the challenge and the arduous task of raising children in a world overwhelmed with many problems and difficulties.
While conscious of their challenges, they need to recognise that it is within the power of the youth to contribute significantly to shaping the societies of the coming decades.
As the Universal House of Justice — the governing council of the Bahá’í international community — states: “The transformation which is to occur in the functioning of society will certainly depend to a great extent on the effectiveness of the preparations the youth make for the world they will inherit.”
An effective preparation involves acknowledgment and development of the immense potentialities of the youth.
This is only possible through adequate education and training.
According to the Bahá’í Writings: “This education, however, in order to be adequate and fruitful should be comprehensive in nature and should take into consideration not only the physical and the intellectual side of man but also his spiritual and ethical aspects.”
Such preparation involves acquiring spiritual qualities and useful qualifications, developing a high-minded outlook and upright character that will exert influence upon world developments and creation of a productive, progressive and peaceful future.
It involves effective guidance of the youth and their empowerment to override the needs of their lower nature in keeping with ethical requirements, to control and channel their natural drives and urges and to transform them into human perfections.
Likewise it involves acquisition of knowledge of the arts and sciences and learning a trade or a profession in order to earn their living, support their families and contribute towards the progress and advancement of arts and science.
It is, however, crucial that their intellectual and spiritual sides are equally developed.
In a world where youth are increasingly left without moral guidance, where the distinction between right and wrong is being lost, only the power of the Word of God can regenerate the spiritual senses.
The Word of God, as the Bahá’í Writings say, illumines the realm of thought and morals.
An effective education and guidance should prepare the youth to act in the long-term interests of humanity as a whole.
Such education and preparation involves instilling in them the awareness of the fundamental oneness of mankind and a sense of world citizenship.
Enhancing capacity requires conversing with the youth and also listening to their opinions.
It involves guiding them to analyse the constructive and destructive forces operating in society and recognise the influence these forces have on their thoughts and actions.
Independent investigation of reality, whether scientific or religious, leads to individual conviction, rather than imitating others, and will help the youth to free themselves from prejudices and preconceptions.
In addition, in the Bahá’í view, adequate youth programmes should combine science and religion, belief and reason, in order to free the youth from religious fanaticism and superstitions.
Placing emphasis on learning to think, rather than following adults out of fear, to reflect and reason, rather than to imitate, will motivate them to apply the spiritual laws with understanding and conviction.
It is also important that youth are guided to express their God-given talents and capacities in service to humanity.
The new paradigm advanced by the Bahá’í Faith focuses on empowering youth to become agents of constructive social change in their communities.
It is through service to others that one can bring social transformation and change one’s life from predominantly self-interest to one of sharing and caring for others.
Education in service of community is essential for transformation of the individual and community life and to enhance the capacity of youth “to carry forward an ever advancing civilisation”.
“The future of today’s society will depend to a great extent on the manner in which educational programmes and methods are designed to release the latent potential of youth and prepare them for the world they will inherit.”
Parents and educators have the responsibility and the privilege to assist the youth to adopt lofty aims, be inspired by noble thoughts and develop qualities and abilities that will enhance their lives and prepare them for serving humanity and creating a better world.