EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Family Congress confronts new challenges
, April 24, 2004
The largest-ever international gathering of pro-family leaders, activists and thinkers, including representatives from Australia, took place in Mexico at the end of March, to address the challenges which face the intact family in the contemporary world.
The World Congress of Families III was convened by the Howard Center, the pro-family think-tank led by Dr Allan Carlson in the US, Professor Richard Wilkins, and Red Familia (The Family Network), a coalition of pro-family organisations from Mexico.
Its theme was "The Natural Family and the Future of Mankind".
The three-day Congress, attended by around 3,200 people from over 70 countries, was opened by the First Lady of Mexico, Martha Fox, who said that the future of society depended on the health and vitality of the family, and its capacity to fulfil its unique role in providing an environment of love and care for all its members.
Dr Carlson, who organised the World Congress, said that in the United States, "even our own legal system is being pressured by changes and developments at the international level. I'm hoping that we can move this international, informal alliance of pro-family and pro-life groups forward."Family policy
The Congress served to bring together many of the world's best thinkers on family policy issues, examining the impact of radical feminism, the media, government policy and poverty as particular challenges to the intact family.
Additionally, it identified family breakdown and anti-family policies of governments, the UN and business, as contributing to the grave problem of depopulation, which threatens the survival of many countries, particularly in Western Europe, but also in parts of Asia (China, Russia and Japan) and Africa, where the HIV-AIDS crisis is particularly acute.
In its concluding declaration, the Congress affirmed that since the previous congress five years ago, "new issues have arisen that threaten the well-being of the family, including a proposed redefinition of marriage, euthanasia, reproductive technology, and bioethical issues (such as cloning)."
Responding to the push to legalise homosexual marriage, the Congress made an appeal "to the authorities of our respective countries and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan" to declare themselves "against the initiative presented a few days ago by several countries to promote the sexual orientation of homosexuals and lesbians as a human right."
It said such a step would contradict "human nature and dignity and the basic institutions of society: the family and marriage."
The congress described marriage as "the cornerstone of healthy family life."
It added, "In marriage, both husband and wife commit to a life of mutual love, respect, support, and compassion. Steadfast commitment in marriage provides the security in family life that is needed by children. Children are entitled to the complementary parental love and attention of both father and mother, which marriage bestows.
"Due to the importance of a child being raised by a mother and a father, social policies should not encourage cohabitation or single parenting."
The Congress also affirmed that the natural family provides "the optimal environment for the healthy development of children. Healthy family life fulfills the basic human need to belong, and satisfies the longings of the human heart to give and receive love.
"The family shapes the human person's attitude towards such fundamental matters as identity, security, responsibility, love, morality, and religion. In personal and intimate ways, the natural family cares for its children and provides for their spiritual, physical, intellectual, social, psychological and ethical growth.
It called on governments and other institutions to encourage and support mothers in their essential role in caring for their children, and to recognise the vital role of fathers in child rearing.
To address the problem of declining fertility, the Congress pointed out that "procreation is the key to the survival of the human race."
It said, "Demographic growth is an indication of the expansion of human resources that represent challenges and opportunities, not burdens. Poverty, hunger, and disease have other causes, including a lack of good will and misuse of governmental resources.
"These problems can be solved by education, creative social policies, economic development, and promotion of family integrity, regardless of geographical boundaries, cultural practices, and religious affiliation."
The Congress was a ringing endorsement of the importance of the intact family to the functioning of society, as well as to parents and children; but it emphasised that without greater community support, the family was unable to perform its vital role in the nurturing and education of children.
It will strengthen the commitment of those who are working to ensure that the family continues to play a pivotal role in society.
- Peter Westmore is President of the National Civic Council