Exploring the distinctive role of youth, Germany’s Baha’is give impetus to an expanding conversation
In recent months, Germany’s Baha’i community has created diverse spaces to explore the unique contributions young people make to society. Through these spaces, momentum has been given to a growing conversation, amid a national discourse on youth, revealing new insights about the distinctive role of the younger generation in society.
Over the last six months, the Baha’i community’s Office of External Affairs has organized gatherings, each with dozens of participants, in different settings to explore these questions: in Teterow, a small town in the country’s east with a diminishing young population; in central Frankfurt, a busy urban center with many young professionals; and in Hagen, a mid-sized industrial city where the discussion brought together several youth from immigrant families. Following the gatherings, the insights from those spaces were discussed in articles, podcasts, and videos on a specially created website.
“We noticed there were many conversations about youth, but not with youth,” says Gabriella Brutto, from the Office of External Affairs. “So we decided to work with local organizations to invite people of all ages to discuss what helps youth to develop their potential to contribute to society and what hinders youth from engaging.”
After meeting with other organizations working with youth around the country, the Office identified some core questions. How do different generations work together? What are the obstacles that prevent members of the younger generation in expressing their hopes for society? And how are the conditions created for young people to engage constructively?
Through the discussions, it has become clear that many people shared the same hopes and aspirations both for themselves and society, Ms. Brutto explains. What these conversations have confirmed is that many youth have a deep longing to contribute to society through their professions, hobbies, families, and other ways.
Something distinctive about today’s youth in particular is that most, in Germany, grew up immersed in online technology such as social media—discussions explored the implications of the younger generation having grown up this way. One of the most significant ideas that came up, for example, was that youth are thus connected to large networks of peers that transcend physical location, creating a greater openness to diversity. Participants also discussed the different qualities that are more common in this time of life, for example, altruism, openness, and vigor.
The workshops have also created a space to share the experience of the German Baha’i community in engaging youth to offer service to their communities in cities and towns around the country. Much has been learned about channeling the great potential and enthusiasm of youth into acts of service. Among the most profound contributions of youth is focusing on the development of the next generation, working with adolescents to realize their intellectual and spiritual potential.