H.E. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations,
H.E. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family,
H.E. Rabbi Abraham Skorka, of the Jewish Community Benei Tikva of Buenos Aires,
Mrs. Donna Fitzpatrick Bethell, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Christendom College in Front Royal,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today for the 20th anniversary of the United Nations International Year of the Family. At the eve of the Post-2015 Development Agenda we must ensure the issue of the family is included. I would like to thank H.E. Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, for graciously inviting me to speak today.
I have actually just returned from Doha, having been invited by the Doha International Family Institute (DIFI) to a similar meeting, the Doha conference on “Empowering Families: A Pathway to Development”. We at the UNAOC are following the initiative of family thanks to DIFI, a prominent member of the Qatar Foundation. Our contribution was to ensure that the cultural aspect of the family was recognized. In the Doha Call to Action, DIFI reaffirms that the family is not only the fundamental group unit of society but is also the fundamental agent for sustainable, social, economic and cultural development.
Development fails when there is a shortcoming of ethics, values, or priority. When an individual does not see the importance of moving forward, advancing professionally, or growing socially, there is no foundation for progress. Families help to determine the success of their children’s social, personal and economic development by instilling the values which emphasize the importance of growth. These values ultimately lead us to a better, stronger society. The Doha Call to Action, in accordance, acknowledges that families are at the center of sustainable development and ensure that families are an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda. Family culture is a vital factor for this, as it determines how people perceive their surroundings.
Families are being threatened by poverty, violence, intolerance, drug abuse, crime, armed conflict and natural disasters—all of which severely alter the soundness of family life and negatively impact the children in those families.
It is worth noting that the family, through the natural progression of husband and wife, to mother and father, is a critical component of development for society.
Instability is caused by familial neglect, discrimination from one’s community, or an absence of primary education and basic health services. This lack of a quality family life can cause children to grow up emotionally insecure and more prone to engage in destructive or negative activities.
The General Assembly adopted a resolution in September of 2012, which I had proposed during my Presidency that annually honors June 1 as the Global Day of Parents in full partnership with civil society, especially involving young people and children.
Anyone will tell you that our youth are the leaders and drivers of tomorrow. It is critical that we nurture and raise them into moral, respectful and open-minded human beings. However, the obstacles present in today’s world are leading to a sometimes troubled, young generation.
The UNAOC also has multiple programs in place, namely its Summer School and Fellowship, which provides additional social support for youth.
Next, there is education. Education not only benefits individuals, but their families and the societies in which they reside. For example, educating children is necessary, as it empowers them to build successful lives for themselves and their future children—thereby creating a continuous, positive life course.
I am pleased to announce that the UNAOC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with “Education Above All”, an initiative headed by HRH Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser of Qatar. Collaborating with EAA helps to counter the lack of education in many countries, particularly developing ones. Increasing education in these regions which are often blemished by conflict and therefore have unstable social settings, helps to strengthen familial relationships. This kind of initiative launched by HH Sheikha Moza helps to fight attacks and violence targeting education and schools.
The UNAOC’s third pillar of “migration” is also associated to the idea and importance of family. As with specific groups who are constantly on the move, they are more vulnerable to the prejudices of society. Furthermore, their ever-changing environment can be difficult for children, causing a strain on family life. The UNAOC is dedicated to protecting migrants and their families, acknowledging the hardships that they must deal with. My team and I are committed to supporting and protecting the family dynamics of these individuals.
Lastly, there is the fourth priority of media. The rapidly evolving technological state of our world has provided us with a complex web of communication media. There’s television and broadcast, print and online media, as well as the swelling variety of social media outlets. Though these resources have made our lives easier in some ways, there is also an increasing attack on family values.
Though some progress has been made, intolerance, xenophobia, bullying and dispute unfortunately still mark today’s times. The world of media is not blameless when it comes to issues of hate speech and stereotyping. These negative messages reach a number of individuals, nationally and internationally, whether they are children or adults. This can be conflicting for people, when they have grown up learning other values—values of harmony and respecting others.
It is crucial that we continue to protect family values and instill these positive values in our children. However, efforts should be made on both sides. For this reason, the UNAOC is launching a unique project that will monitor hate speech in the media. Our aim is to help media professionals heighten the standard of reporting to prevent the use of hate speech or messages of intolerance.
I have also added several new areas of focus to the UNAOC’s priorities—these are: sports, music and entertainment. I am confident that these will serve as common interests among family members, helping to further solidify and preserve their relationships.
Last but not least, during my visit to Vatican City last month, I had several bilateral meetings and discussions on issues of mutual concern with High Level Representatives of the Vatican covering Interreligious Dialogue, Family and Culture. I also discussed issues pertaining to cross-cultural understanding and peaceful mediation as well as the new activities such as sustainable development, sports, arts and entertainment and counter terrorism. I explained that the Alliance strives to build bridges between the diverse cultures to promote dialogue and understanding through its various programs and activities emanating from the belief that dialogue and respect for diversity are crucial elements for building peace, tolerance, harmony and mutual understanding around the world.
I had the honor to meet with Pope Francis at his Residence. I praised his initiative: “Waste Food Campaign,” which demonstrates his deep concern for poverty and hunger, as well as his willingness to focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable people. I expressed my admiration for his message of tolerance, healing and reconciliation.
At my meeting with the President of the Pontifical Council of the Family H.E. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the focus was on the 20th anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family, which is a milestone year, not only due to its enduring success, but also because it coincides with the final year of the MDGs. We also discussed future plan of activities leading to the International Conference in Philadelphia in September 2015 which “aims to strengthen family bonds among people of all faiths”
In keeping with the tradition of Family, it is worth noting here that the Vatican has adopted two recent initiatives. The first is the newly formed Commission on Child Protection. This is a momentous milestone, as it not only assumes the noble responsibility of protection the youth, but it also brings women to power in the Church for the first time ever. This is an important initiative for protecting the family unit, as it links minors in need with access to resources and services, such as counseling and support programs.
Second, with the world in a constant state of flux and change, perspectives, ideas and opinions are ever changing as well. In light of this, the Vatican—under Pope Francis’ mandate—is reviewing results from a worldwide-administrated survey. The Pope seeks to assess the general public’s view on important issues related to family and everyday life in order to re-evaluate the Church’s policies and teachings of these topics.
Realigning the Church’s objectives and doctrines so that they interconnect with public preferences will help build stronger societies. Harmonious, more peaceful communities is something we at the UNAOC are always working towards too.
In closing, I would like to share a message I retained from Pope Francis during my recent visit to the Vatican: Fraternity is the path towards peace. Stay humble while you enjoy a privileged life.