WORLD FAMILY CONGRESS by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
, December 4, 1999
Geneva congress defends natural family
The World Congress of Families II was held in Geneva in mid-November. It was attended by representatives of family organisations from more than 60 countries.
Peter Westmore, who was part of the planning committee, reports on the detailed resolutions that were passed by the Congress.
He also discusses the results of a worldwide survey into family life which were tabled during the Congress.
GENEVA: The Second World Congress of Families, attended by over 1600 people representing organisations from over 60 countries around the world, has endorsed a strong program of action to defend the natural family.
The Congress was held in Geneva, once a centre of Protestantism and the home of free thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau, but now overwhelmingly secular and the European home of the United Nations.
The Congress was addressed by many leaders of the pro-family and pro-life movements, including the co-convenors, Dr Allan Carlson and Professor Richard Wilkins.
Australian speakers included Dr Joe Santamaria, Kevin Andrews MP and Mrs Babette Francis.
Among the issues addressed at the Congress were the pending challenges facing the world of depopulation due to below-replacement fertility, the growth of the drug culture, and destructive attacks on the family from some United Nations agencies and bodies such as Planned Parenthood.The Congress resolutions included:
'The natural family is defined by marriage, procreation and, in some cultures, adoption. Free, secure and stable families that welcome children are necessary for a healthy society. The society that abandons the natural family as the norm is destined for chaos and suffering. The loving family reaches out in love and service to its communities and those in need. All social and cultural institutions should respect and uphold the rights and responsibilities of the family.'
'The cornerstone of healthy family life, marriage brings security, contentment, meaning, joy and spiritual maturity to the man and woman who enter this lifelong covenant with unselfish commitment ... Steadfast commitment in marriage provides the security in family life that children need. Children also need, and are entitled to, the complementary parental love and attention of both father and mother, which marriage provides.'
'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 informs the human personÕs original attitude to such fundamental matters as identity, security, responsibility, love, morality and religion. In personal and intimate ways that no self-defining entity could, the natural family cares for its children and provides for their spiritual, physical, psychological and moral growth.'
'The complementary natures of men and women are physically and psychologically self-evident ... Culture and society should encourage standards of sexual morality that support and enhance family life.'
'Every human life is a gift to the person, the family and society. Loving families cherish and serve all their members, including the weak, the aged and the handicapped. Taking innocent human life through abortion and euthanasia is wrong; respect for human life demands that we choose the life-protecting options of adoption and palliative care. The destruction of embryonic human beings, lethal human embryo experimentation and abortifacients also involve the wrongful takings of human life ... Policy should respect the inherent dignity of human life.'
'Human society depends on the renewal of the human population; the true population problem is depopulation, not over-population. Many nations are experiencing below-replacement fertility, arising from widespread abortion, birth control, lack of interest in marriage, and declining family sizes. People are living longer, increasing the size of elderly populations, while there are proportionally decreasing numbers of taxpayers to support their elders" retirement incomes and health care. Because just governments and creative human enterprise and charity offer the best hope for addressing the problems of poverty, hunger and disease, no country should be coerced to accept policies of 'population control'. Efforts to assist developing countries should focus on promoting family self-sufficiency, not dependency.'
'By its nature, education is not only technical and practical, but also moral and spiritual. The family is the child's first school, parents the first and most important teachers ... School curricula should not undermine the right of parents to teach their children moral and spiritual values. Parents have a duty to their children and society to provide their children an adequate education.'
'Economic policy, both corporate and governmental, should be crafted to allow the economy to flourish; what is good for families is good for the economy. Family economy centres on the pursuit of meaningful employment to fulfill one's personal vocation and to provide for the present and future needs, obligations and desires of the family - such as food, shelter, education, health care, charity, recreation, retirement income, taxes, and the inter-generational family estate. Healthy families produce good citizens and workers, competent consumers and innovative entrepreneurs. Employers should allow workers flexible family and maternity leave.'
'Government should protect and support the family and not usurp the vital roles it plays in society. When the state or its agent attempts to exercise a right or responsibility that belongs to the family, albeit with good intentions to address a vexing social problem, its effect is to undermine and displace the family, and make matters worse. Government policies should not create pressure for mothers to enter the workforce when they would prefer to care for their families full-time.'
'Families have the right to teach their children and raise them according to their religious precepts.'
At the Congress, the results of a global survey on marriage and the family were released.
They showed that:
78 per cent of respondents worldwide agree that 'a family created through lawful marriage is the fundamental unit of society. (Support was weakest in Europe where only 54 per cent agree.)
A lasting marriage was seen as the most important factor in creating a good quality of life.
Over 90 per cent of people in Asia believe that 'it is better for children to be raised in a household that has a married mother and father'. Support was weakest in Europe (66 per cent).
Worldwide, 69 per cent of people believe that children are very important to having a strong marriage and 77 per cent say that having and raising children are very important to the quality of family life.
However, there is widespread concern for the future, with more people in the USA, Middle East and Latin America believing that the institution of marriage is weakening. Only in Asia did most people believe that the quality of family life would be better.
The organisation sponsoring the study - the Howard Centre - commented:
'There is no doubt that current trends, if left unchecked, threaten the existence of the family.'
The World Congress of Families at least has a plan in place to address this challenge.