“The period of youth is characterized by strength and vigor and stands out as the choicest time in human life. Therefore you should strive day and night so that endowed with heavenly strength, inspired with brilliant motives and aided by His celestial power and heavenly grace and confirmation .…”
The Baha’i community recognizes the period of youth as a special period in the life of an individual, potentially the springtime of human life. If young people’s burgeoning intellectual, spiritual and physical capacities are channeled towards social transformation during this phase of life, both communities and the youth themselves can realize their true potential. A special kind of preparation is required during the junior youth years, a period of rapid change between the ages of 11 to 14, when young people are leaving behind childhood and advancing towards maturity. These young adolescents, termed ‘junior youth’, have many new questions and aspirations during this time of life. While this age group is often projected as problematic and described in negative terms, the junior youth program is built on an understanding of the potential of this age group for altruism, eagerness to learn about the universe, a strong sense of justice and enthusiasm for working towards the betterment of the world. To assist this group to navigate this period full of challenges and possibilities, a program for the spiritual empowerment of junior youth is being offered worldwide by the Baha’i community.
As part of this program, older youth aged 15 and above are trained to serve as ‘animators’ who accompany small groups of junior youth in their own localities. With the help of their animator, these junior youth explore the profound questions that occupy their minds. They study materials that assist them to develop spiritual perception and a moral framework for making decisions. The materials also aid them in developing their power of expression in a positive manner, and enable them to channel their abundant energies into service to their communities. The exploration of reality in which the program engages them assists them to analyze the constructive and destructive forces operating in society. It helps them resist forces that would rob them of their true identity as noble beings, while aligning themselves with efforts to bring about positive change. Tens of thousands of junior youth in India currently participate in such groups with the help of thousands of young adults who volunteer to serve as animators in their spare time.