Geneva, Switzerland - The Universal Peace Federation, the Women’s Federation for World Peace, the Fribourg Peace Forum, and the Geneva Interfaith Intercultural Alliance organized a conference in Geneva July 5-6, 2012, on the stimulating and highly topical theme, “The Contribution of Families to Peace, Human Development, and Prosperity.”
This timely and informative conference which, in the Palais des Nations, had special status as a Side Event of the 20th Human Rights Council, brought together Ambassadors, senior religious leaders, founders of charitable bodies, and human relationship experts. Several aspects were remarkable, in particular the rich variety of speakers and topics addressed in relationship to the theme and the substantial contribution of religious perspectives.
This was the 12th of a series of European Leadership Conferences that have been held at the United Nations in Geneva and Vienna, UNESCO in Paris, as well as at the National Parliaments in the United Kingdom and in Norway and in the Presidential Palace in Malta on issues of pressing concern for Europe. This program took place at two different UN venues: the International Labor Organization (July 5) and the Palais des Nations (July 6).
Excerpts from selected speakers:
Dr. Yong Cheon Song, Chairman of UPF-Europe - UPF is deeply concerned by the extent to which modern societies seem to have lost the sense of connection between a good marriage and family life and the peace, well being, and prosperity of society as a whole. We are seeing the consequences of that in the increasing social decay and breakdown in so-called advanced societies the world over.
Dr. Rudolf Gehring, Chair of the Christian Party of Austria - A strong country needs strong families. When I was a candidate for the Austrian Presidency, I became aware that many Austrians support this view. Young people wish for family and friendship as a foundation for security, stability, and support. My political party considers itself as a party for the family and holds that the future of society depends on the family.
Dr. Katrien Beeckman, Director of the Principles and Values Department of the International Federation of Red Cross Crescent Societies - We owe our children a life free from violence and fear and full of love and care. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have a network of 13 million volunteers, more than half of them youth and more than half female. Parents are a role model for their children, and they matter as much or more than peers in terms of influencing children. Equality between men and women in decision making and between mothers and fathers in child rearing and domestic tasks are protective factors against domestic violence.
Mr. Dennis Stoica, Chair of Healthy Relationships in California, USA - The state of California spends $150 million per year on programs supporting marriage and family. Why such strong bipartisan support? It is all about the children. The evidence of studies is overwhelming that children who grow up in intact families do better at school, have better mental and physical health, are less likely to live in poverty, avoid gangs and crime, have improved lifetime earnings prospects, and are more likely to get married and stay married.
H.E. Mme. Soline Nyirahabimana, Ambassador of Rwanda to the UN - Rwanda’s First Lady has educated and empowered people through initiatives in education, health, and employment. For example, the Guardian Angels project encourages adults who have shown remarkable compassion by caring for vulnerable children, and the Unity Club brings together women genocide survivors and the wives whose husbands are in prison or exile as a result of their part in committing atrocities.
Dr. Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University, UK - To address peace we should consider not just religious beliefs and teachings but also commitment and implementation. Islam is family centered, and marriage is regarded as half of faith. The family should be a school of humility whose objective is peace. First, we should be at peace internally; finding God involves meeting our need for spiritual well being through truth. Then we need to think of how this applies in our family. Inner freedom is to know who you want to be, not what society says you should be or what others want you to be.
Ms. Carolyn Handschin-Moser, President of Women's Federation for World Peace International in Europe - A new paradigm is "familiarchy," a system of society in which the family unit is the nexus and in which parents, children, and the extended family members cooperate to maintain and uplift the families members and contribute both as a whole and as individual members to the development of the larger community, becoming an intertwined network of families.
Lord Raj Loomba, Member of the House of Lords and Founder, Chairman and Trustee of the Loomba Foundation (Widows Foundation), UK - Family life is so influential, but family life can break down through no one's fault when a woman’s husband dies because of an accident or disease; then the woman often loses her place in society and, if uneducated, may depend on her children to work in factories or on the street; thus, they are vulnerable to abuse. In developing nations widows are often ostracized, prohibited from earning a living, or deprived of their property; thus, they face destitution.
Ms. Pindie Stephen, Senior Migrant Training and Integration Specialist in the Labour Migration and Human Development Division of the International Organization for Migration - The feminization of migration represents a qualitative change: women are increasingly the primary immigrants, not dependents. The social impact of migration involve uprooting and adapting; people are on their own in a new and unfamiliar environment, having lost their social network and support system; children become cultural facilitators. Migrants who succeed in settling well can in turn educate and prepare others, becoming a beacon of hope for the next generation.