On 5 May 2018 Balliol College Chapel welcomed a group of around 80 young people for a devotional programme of prayer and singing, following a day-long conference on the role of youth in contributing to the betterment of society.
The youth were mostly members of the Baha’i Faith, a global religious community whose central aim is to build unity among people of all different backgrounds. Grassroots community-building activities are a major element of this effort. Many of the youth at the gathering committed substantial time over the next few months to such activities, including educational programmes aimed at early adolescents.
Balliol is a place of great historical significance for Baha’is because Shoghi Effendi, who guided the Baha’i community during a critical period in its early development, was a member of the College from 1920 to 1921. Whilst at Balliol, Shoghi Effendi studied subjects in the humanities and social sciences, and worked on some of the first translations of the Baha’i writings into English.
One of the participants at the gathering was Maximillian Afnan, a postgraduate student who is reading for an MPhil at Balliol. He commented: ‘A key theme in the writings of Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i Faith, is that service and worship should be intimately connected. Our conversations throughout the day centred on how, as young people, we can contribute to the betterment of our communities. The visit to the Chapel allowed us to link our discussions about service to worship, reminding us that efforts to serve others are the reflection of a spiritual impulse.’