The period of youth is a very special period in one’s life. It is characterized by strength and vigour. The Bahá’í Writings say:
For any person his youthful years are those in which he will make many decisions which will set the course of his life. In these years he is most likely to choose his life’s work, complete his education, begin to earn his own living, marry, and start to raise his own family. Most important of all, it is during this period that the mind is most questing and that the spiritual values that will guide the person’s future behaviour are adopted.
These factors present the youth with greatest opportunities, their greatest challenges and their greatest tests. They have the opportunity to understand and apply to their lives the teachings of God and set an example for others. They have “challenges to overcome the pressures of the world and to provide leadership for their and succeeding generations, and tests enabling them to exemplify in their lives the high moral standards..”.
It is within the power of the youth to contribute significantly to shaping the societies of the coming decades. They have the potential to channel their energy, capacities and talents towards building a better society and advancement of civilization. According to the Universal House of Justice, the governing council of the Bahá’í international community:
..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.
We as parents and teachers have the challenge and the arduous task of raising our children in a world overwhelmed with many problems and difficulties. We have the challenge for consciously creating a global culture, one that emphasizes peace and justice.
Through effective guidance our youth can be empowered 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. An effective education and guidance should prepare the youth to act in the long-term interests of the humanity as a whole. Such education should instil in them the awareness of the fundamental oneness of mankind and a sense of world citizenship.
Our youth have great capacities. We need to converse with them, listen to their opinions and try to find out how we can help them enhance their potential capacities. They should be guided to analyse the constructive and destructive forces operating in society and recognize 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 our youth to free themselves from prejudices and preconceptions.
It is also important that we help our youth to express their God given talents and capacities in service to humanity. The new paradigm advanced by the Bahá’í Faith focuses on empowering individuals 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 predominately self interest to one of sharing and caring for others.