Baha’i youth participate in UN High Level Political Forum

Baha’i youth participate in UN High Level Political Forum

NEW YORK, 12 September 2018, (CBNS)

At the recent 2018 United Nations High-Level Political Forum, held in New York over the summer, the Baha’i community made a number of contributions to the conversation about the role of youth in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), collectively referred to as Agenda 2030.

The Forum is an annual gathering of member states of the UN and others to review progress toward the achievement of the SDGs.

Delegates of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) included Eric Farr, a Canadian Baha’i from Hamilton, currently a PhD student in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto. Farr was part of a Baha’i delegation that included young people from a number of countries, including Ireland and Colombia.

They participated in a number of events convened alongside the Forum by the BIC offices. On three consecutive days, panel discussions were held on a number of intersecting themes: the strength inherent in diversity, the construction of peaceful and resilient societies, and capacity building for the transformation of community life.

The series attracted a number of high-level participants including Directors and Policy Officers from a half-dozen UN agencies, and Canada’s Youth Delegate for the HLPF.

“Young people have a deep desire to understand reality. They long for meaning in their lives, to discover their purpose and pursue it with conviction and enthusiasm,” Farr observed at one of these events. He emphasized the importance of rethinking how we talk about religion in the context of growing religious diversity, extremism, and materialism. “We need to develop a new discourse on religion that sees it not simply as a slate of discrete traditions from different periods and parts of the world, but as the evolving narrative of the spiritual heritage of all of humanity. We need this new discourse on religion so that today’s young people can draw on religion’s spiritual and intellectual resources to confront the unique and pressing challenges facing their generation.”

Baha’i delegates shared experience from the Baha’i community’s efforts around the world to raise the capacity of young people to contribute to local community life. Farr noted that these efforts are primarily focused on the age group of 12-15-year-olds, who are in a period of transition in their lives and discovering new intellectual and spiritual capacities. “They are noticing new things in the world, and discovering capacities in themselves that they didn’t know that they had.”

Another BIC youth delegate from Colombia, Emmanuel Zapata Caldas, observed, “As inherited concepts of dominance and control are left behind and the power of cooperation and unity of thought and action are embraced, capabilities inherent in youth surface and can be directed toward the common good.”