Tirana Youth Conference Albania (10-12 August 2013)
“Our role is to build a new world,” said a participant from Kosovo at the start of the first session of the conference. “Our goal cannot be to criticize the bad state in which we find things, but rather to find solutions,” added another friend. With such high aspirations, some 160 youth from eleven countries in the Balkan peninsula––Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia––gathered over three consecutive days in the Harry Fultz School in Tirana, Albania, to discuss how they could contribute to building communities in which all work together to achieve material and spiritual progress.
Not only was this conference the largest event which many of the youth had ever attended, it was also the first time many were offered an opportunity to discuss, on a larger scale, how they could translate their hopes for a better society into tangible actions. In a region faced with national prejudices and racial animosity, rooted in historical conflicts, many participants expressed the hope that the communities that they are seeking to serve will soon reflect the spirit of the conference. Against this backdrop, the friendships formed during the conference acquired special significance. An Albanian participant expressed that it was the first time he had met someone from Serbia and realized they could be friends, while another participant said, “We are making history; we are turning a page.” A Roma youth from Macedonia stated: “At home, every day of my life I experience prejudice, but this is the first gathering where I have felt no prejudice at all.”
Participants socialize outside the venue during a break
The high temperatures of the first day did not distract the participants from focused consultation on the role of their generation, and was eventually quenched by a heavy thunderstorm. During breaks, the school walls buzzed with enthusiasm as participants from all countries joined together in song to the beat of drums. In the evening, the energy of those present intensified and, as the various groups presented songs, poems, and dramatizations based on the insights they had gained during the day, those gathered cheered, clapped, sang, and danced along. The fatigue from their travels could not prevent them from enjoying the lively atmosphere that had been created.
During one of the workshop sessions, the participants analysed how supporting and encouraging one another in all aspects of life is essential to forming true friendships and, that evening, many of the artistic presentations shared during the plenary session focused on this concept. The youth from Croatia presented a skit entitled “A fountain of selfless support” to present their insights about this topic, in which each participant represented a spout of water portraying a quality of true friendship. One of the participants said, “Some examples of what we can do as friends include studying together and encouraging each other... We can also help each other to look for the good things in others, and not focus on their shortcomings.”
On the last morning of the conference, a nineteen-year-old shopkeeper from the neighbourhood where the event was being held shared a story of how she had been invited to the conference just two days before, and expressed what many other participants were feeling: “On the first day, I went home smiling. On the second day, I went home dancing. Now, on the third day, I wish the conference would never end.”
The conference took place in the Harry Fultz School in Tirana
- On one of the evenings, a youth from Albania shared an inspirational song about Mona Mahmudnizhad, a young girl from Iran who, at the age of 16, was imprisoned and eventually executed because of her efforts to educate the children of her community using the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh
- Some youth from Serbia who were unable to attend the conference created a video sharing their thoughts about the contribution that their generation can make to society. It was presented during one of the plenary sessions