Youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow but are active today in building a vibrant, multi-faith society that embraces diversity, a Baha’i representative, Sahba Clara Delshad, told the inaugural Youth Parliament of World Religions in Sydney.
“Our generation is a vibrant source of social advancement,” Ms Delshad said in an address to the Parliament, held on 17 September 2015.
Ms Delshad, and another Baha’i, Steven Maaelopa, were among a range of speakers from the world’s religions at the Parliament, which was convened by the Columban Mission Institute.
Attending the event were about 500 youth from Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, and Sikh communities. It was held in the Sydney Baha’i Centre in Silverwater and involved talks, performances, group discussions, socialising and a dinner.
Dynamic artistic performances, beginning with Aboriginal dance and music, and including energetic performances by Pacific Island youth, won a rapturous reception from those attending.
One of the faith representatives on the eleven member organising committee was a Baha’i, Shauna Humphries, who said the group was very joyful and unified: “It showed it is possible for young people from different religious backgrounds to work together toward a common vision.”
A message from the Parliament, voted upon by the participants, is to be widely distributed to civic and religious leaders, and pledges made by groups of youth on the night will be compiled and made public.
Youth needed as leaders
In her address, Ms Delshad said she had observed in Australia and overseas that there was a strong desire of youth to contribute to constructive change, and they were doing this.
But there was a question of how the efforts of youth could be further strengthened and supported by civil and religious leaders, Ms Delshad said.
“Including youth in formal structures of power is, of course, helpful for a variety of reasons,” she said.
“But simply feeding young voices into old systems, without meaningful forms of participation runs the risk of youth just being the token young person present, with little value given to their presence and participation.
“Youth are needed as leaders and decision-makers not only in youth conferences, committees and panels, but in those spaces where the course and direction of society as a whole is determined.
“This may require the development of new systems of decision-making and collaboration with our civic and religious leaders – systems characterised by a search for truth, an attitude of cooperation, and an appreciation for the vital role every individual can play in the betterment of the whole.”