Spiritual empowerment takes root in neighbourhoods across Canada

Spiritual empowerment takes root in neighbourhoods across Canada

5 OCTOBER 2018, TORONTO, (CBNS)

Across Canada this summer, Baha’i communities brought together youth to learn about working with their younger peers to contribute to the betterment of their neighbourhoods.

From the West Coast to the Atlantic, more than 300 youth in 16 locations across the country spent their summer training to become junior youth animators: youth who work with adolescents aged 12 to 15 through the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program.

As the months progressed, training participants engaged in conversations with thousands of residents in their neighbourhoods. People of all ages expressed an interest in the spiritual development of their community. Along with junior youth groups, many locales started other activities like classes for the spiritual education of children and neighbourhood gatherings centered on prayer and meditation. Groups of youth and adults have not only been engaged by this process but have also started to actively support the activities now growing in their own backyards.

“Six youth from the neighbourhood have come on different days to the training,” said Taban Behin from Nanaimo, B.C., “The campaign has helped them grow in their commitment as they removed themselves from the negative social forces around them and have been connecting with their younger friends to help them do the same. It’s incredible to witness.”

As part of their training, the groups of youth went to nearby neighbourhoods and started meeting with young people and their families. Recognizing the innate desire of this younger generation to contribute to their society, the youth invited them to come together to discuss how to be involved in their community with a positive, empowering outlook, helping them to face the changes in thought, attitude, and ability that come during these pre-teen years.

“They really took control of this process,” Deysha Henry, a young woman who joined a training in London, Ont., said. “There was a day when one of the girls I had previously met insisted on taking me to invite her friends to the group. It started to pour rain and I told her she should go home but she said, ‘No, I have more people I need to invite.’ It was so inspiring to see this young person recognize how important this work is and not let anything get in her way.”

Each participant went home at the end of their two-week training period with the expectation to continue to practice what they learned in their own communities. They’re also returning ready to work alongside anyone who is interested in contributing to their community’s growth.

“I took part in one of the trainings in Toronto and one in Brampton,” said Chayan Dehghan, a university student from Ontario, who dedicated his entire summer to learning about this community-building process. “It’s so amazing to see how a group of friends can become so close with an entire neighbourhood of people and together focus on what can be done to make our communities better.