AIDS & junior youth

Yesterday was World AIDS Day. This year’s theme was: ‘Lead – Empower – Deliver‘. The umbrella theme for 2007-08, Leadership, provides an opportunity to highlight both the political leadership needed to fulfill commitments that have been made in the response to AIDS – particularly the promise of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010 – and celebrating the leadership that has been witnessed at all levels of society.

The UK theme for this year was: ‘Respect & Protect‘. ‘Respect & Protect’ is inclusive and highlights the responsibility everyone has to transform attitudes to HIV and encourage actions that stop its spread.

I know it sounds a bit strange, but the 2008 theme ‘Lead – Empower – Deliver‘ reminds me very much of the spiritual empowerment programme for junior youth that Baha’i communities all over the world are using.

Aren’t those 3 words what we would like every junior youth to be?

Be a leader amongst their peers,

Be empowered, and

Be able to deliver (serve your local community).

It reminds me of something Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:

“He urges you to make up your minds to do great, great deeds for the Faith; the condition of the world is steadily growing worse, and your generation must provide the saints, heroes, martyrs and administrators of future years. With dedication and will power you can rise to great heights!”

And the Universal House of Justice, in its Ridvan message of 2000, said the following about junior youth:

“Among the young ones in the community are those known as junior youth, who fall between the ages of, say, 12 and 15. They represent a special group with special needs as they are somewhat in between childhood and youth when many changes are occurring within them. Creative attention must be devoted to involving them in programmes of activity that will engage their interests, mold their capacities for teaching and service, and involve them in social interaction with older youth. The employment of the arts in various forms can be of great value in such activity.”

I’ve just started a junior youth group with a friend, so we’re completely in learning mode for this core activity. All good fun so far and they are busy thinking of a name for their group and what service means to them.

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