Universal Peace Federation
European Leadership Conference
"The Contribution of Families to Peace, Human Development & Prosperity"
July 5-6, 2012
Opening Plenary Address of Dr Yong Cheon Song, Chair, UPF Europe
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ambassadors for Peace, Ladies and Gentlemen! As Chair of The Universal Peace Federation in Europe, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to you to this very timely conference on "The Contribution of Families to Peace, Human Development & Prosperity". I am both touched and inspired by a gathering of such distinguished and highly qualified persons coming together from so many parts of the world to address this important theme. Thank you for making the effort to be here with us today.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is unquestionably a time of unprecedented crisis for the time honored institutions of marriage and family in many parts of the world. More and more people are either forsaking the ideal of marriage altogether or else opting to set aside many of the traditional responsibilities and disciplines associated with it. Of the diminishing number of marriages that do take place, more and more are liable to end in divorce, with all the deeply painful, sad and socially disruptive consequences that that entails for all involved – parents and children alike. In addition there are the burdens that family breakdown places upon the wider community which is very often left to pick up the pieces.
At the same time, traditional ideals of marriage and family are more and more being challenged by alternative models that claim to have equal value and status, such as the marriage of two men or two women. Such marriages have already been accorded full legal status in a number of European nations and are in the process of being accorded such status in others. Similarly, children are being adopted by same sex couples without any understanding of how growing up with two “parents” of the same sex may affect their emotional and spiritual development in the long term.
Universal Peace Federation is deeply concerned at 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. Indeed, we believe that we are seeing the consequences of that in the increasing social decay and breakdown to be observed in so called advanced societies the world over.
A prime example of this was the riots that erupted last summer in cities up and down the United Kingdom and in which rampaging gangs of (mostly) young people ransacked whole areas of towns and cities, looting and laying waste to property and causing hundreds of millions of euros worth of damage. At first, this behavior was attributed to all kinds of relatively more superficial and immediate causes such as high youth unemployment and alleged police brutality. But as the fuller picture emerged through hundreds of court processes over a period of many months, it became clear that most of the culprits were from broken (and often fatherless) families and homes and many had already previously turned to crime (including gang life) as a consequence of coming from dysfunctional families.
We believe that much of the solution to our social, political and economic ills lies in rediscovering the causal link between healthy families and a healthy society and in finding ways to revitalize the institutions of marriage and family. That is why we feel it is so important for like-minded persons and groups to work together to identify ways of achieving these vital goals and why we have initiated this conference. We hope that it will help focus thinking, develop deeper understanding and turn up new solutions in all the areas that I have outlined and many others as well and that it will foster a close sense of ongoing cooperation between all those participating in this conference that will bear fruit long after we have all returned home.
UPF’s Founders, Father and Mother Moon have dedicated their entire lives to expounding a vision of marriage and family that can serve as the basis for lasting world peace and in which all levels of social entity - the individual, the family, the local community, the nation and the world – can exist in peace and harmony both within themselves and in relationship to other social entities.
They have also been able to establish within themselves and in their relationship with each other the most extraordinary capacity for unconditional love for others. It is a heart of love that transcends race, nationality, ethnicity or religion and which underlies and guides all the activities of the innumerable organizations, projects and activities which they have founded. For them Humanity can only be thought of as “One Family under God” and they see each person through the eyes of love as a precious member of such an extended human family and encourage us all to do likewise.
While recognizing that there is much existing marriage and family tradition that can be built upon for future human development, they recognize that, to a great extent, the God-given potential of individuals, married couples and families has never in human history been fully understood or realized in practice. They thus continue to dedicate themselves tirelessly to empowering others to establish true families that embody within them a realm of true love and true heart which is truly unselfish and unconditional in nature. Such families are then encouraged to embrace others in that same love and pass on a tradition of true love both to their own descendants and to the society around them.
For decades their efforts have been deeply misunderstood - largely due to being misrepresented and distorted by a sensation hungry media. However, there are increasing signs that this is now changing. Just when traditional forms of marriage and family seem increasingly under threat and when society seems to have lost sight of the unique and special role that marriage and family have played in fostering our most cherished values, there seems at long last to be a new interest in more traditional ideas. For example, UPF has noticed a considerable upsurge of media interest in recent months in the Marriage Blessing Ceremony that Father and Mother Moon have initiated and which they have made open to all people regardless of race, religion, nationality or creed.
Recently, “The Blessing” as it is known has been featured prominently in media all over the world, entirely upon the initiative of the media involved and not in any way solicited by UPF or any of its affiliated organizations. In The United Kingdom Channel 4 Television has just put out a one hour “fly on the wall” documentary, in which preparation for and participation in the ceremony by several young couples is featured extensively. More recently, ‘Al Jazeera’ the Gulf-based TV station that broadcasts to hundreds of millions of people around the world, also featured The Blessing Ceremony extensively in a documentary. Most recently of all, The BBC has this week given extensive coverage to the testimonies of couples who took part in a Blessing Ceremony for 2000 couples in New York in 1982, on the occasion of their 30th wedding anniversary and noted that such marriages have a considerably higher success rate than the average.
I believe that this new level of media interest is a hopeful sign for us all and shows that there is a spontaneous and natural interest in more traditional forms or ideals of marriage and family and that many do not buy into the superficiality and political correctness behind some of the models of marriage and family that have been adopted in recent decades. I believe that there is a real and deep spiritual thirst for understandings of marriage that hold out the possibility of real spiritual fulfillment and cater for the deepest longings of the human heart.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think that it is essential that we seek to understand the most fundamental functions that marriage and family are designed to fulfill and it is through finding answers to these challenging questions that individually and collectively we will arrive at a decision as to what forms of marriage and family to persevere with and which to quietly abandon.
UPF holds that the family is the school of love and peace and the institution within which we learn to be moral beings and to make good relationships with others as a preparation for relating well with the world beyond the family. It is also the social institution in which we learn the fundamental value of giving and that it is what we give, even more than what we receive, that defines us and gives us our true value and lasting sense of self worth.
We believe passionately that the true family should be the building block of a peaceful, harmonious society and ultimately of a peaceful nation and world. We believe that it is by far the best, most secure and loving environment in which to raise children and one in which (except in truly extreme circumstances!) each child should have the benefit of both a father and a mother to provide a feminine and a masculine role model.
Last, but by no means least, we see the family as a God-given institution through which we can develop the godly (giving and loving) aspects of our character, personality and heart and also restore and overcome the ungodly elements we all retain. It is essential that the family nurture true love, true life and true lineage. No other social institution has the capacity to do this and thus the family is not only the most essential social institution, but also a sacred one whose sanctity we interfere with at our peril.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am confident that this conference will be a well of inspiration and new insight and understanding for us all, as well as leading to new and lasting relationships that will help preserve and develop aspects of marriage and family that require our concern and attention. I hope that it will prove a rich and rewarding experience for each of you and I look forward to renewing old friendships with many of you as well as to making new friendships with many others! Once again, thank you for coming and may God bless you and your precious families!
Thank you very much!
Author: Yong Cheon Song
Former Chair of UPF in Europe
Dr Yong Cheon Song is the Former Chair of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in Europe.