Unification News for July and August 1998
Session IV: The Family and a Culture of Peace
by Karen Judd Smith
Dr. Hamad started by noting that while families vary greatly, depending upon the culture, families are nevertheless important for the building of society. Even at the international level, the recognition of this is reflected in the United Nationsí day of commemoration celebrating families on the International Day of Families each May 15.
Dr. Anie S. Kalayjan presented many statistics showing how we have made dramatic advancement in health care over the past 50 years. This is indicated by the increase in life expectancy, eradication of diseases which took thousands of lives each year, decreased infant mortality, increased literacy, higher real income, more safe water, improved technologies, absence of global conflict and improved environmental policies.
Nevertheless, many challenges remain and even increase. Today, more than a billion people live in poverty, and the number is increasing, especially in Africa, South America and the Middle East. Each year millions die of hunger and malnutrition; 200 million people work in slavery (50% children). Thereís an increase in cases of genocide and politically-motivated mass murders; two million women and girls (thatís five every minute) have experienced FGM (female genital mutilation). One fifth to one half of all women admit to having been beaten by their parents and, in the USA alone, one woman is raped every 45 seconds.
She then related this to how these facts affect families. There is an increase in the families headed by women, more and more women are working outside the home, the role of the extended family is decreasing and therefore the stress on the nuclear family is increasing, and the population is aging (the elderly usually live in poverty). Where domestic violence is common and the number of families being displaced by war is increasing, an increased number of children are clearly being denied the love and protection they deserve. The family in many cases is in shambles.
This point was later elucidated when one participant briefly (very understatedly) outlined the reality of her experience in Rwanda. She noted that one million people died during the recent war. "The impact of this conflict on the family cannot really be comprehended. After the war, everything was destroyed-homes, families, lives. For example, 30 members of my family died."
She told of one scene where women were making bricks to rebuild houses. A person remarked, "Why donít you ask the men to help?" But only one old man and one little boy was left from that whole community.
Now, children became heads of families. Children live alone with children. Brothers and sisters are left to survive alone; brothers impregnate sisters.
"During that time, even family members killed one another. Husbands killed wives. Families are shattered. Now there are so many widows; most are abused. The family is in such disrepair. What can we do to reshape the family? Does anyone have some idea? What can we do to rebuild?"
So while there is much improvement in certain areas, there are still major problems and breakdown in others. With this breakdown, the challenge of the nuclear family is increasing and growing. But how to cope?
Dr. Kalayjan noted that we so often "medicate" our difficulties with drink, drugs and TV.
With so many marriages ending in divorce, we become so desensitized to the very human and destructive consequences till the point that today, in some cases, we almost make divorce festive.
Another response to the overwhelming nature of todayís problems is that parents become paranoid or possessed, trying to forget our pain and problems through addiction to TV or internet or computers-or obsessed with our history (dumping our problems on our children)-or we take the attitude that we are a victim, looking for special attention-or we take anti-depressants. The number of "depressed people" has doubled in the developed countries, lately. Or we overreact to the simple things: we go to a therapist because "they moved my ball."
In short, we often feel inadequate and helpless in the face of the reality of todayí s problems. We as families feel helpless when we look at the world atrocities.
Dr. Kalayjan then asked: what is the real role of the family? She concluded simply: much of what would make a world of difference is summed up in the short title: "All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten."
"Imagine if countries abided by this? If countries could only abide by these things. But the dichotomy arises because we learn in the family something opposite to what we see out there. We often do not prepare our children to deal with the world."
She recommended that the larger social responsibility of the global family should be to support the nuclear family in all of its work. To this end, it is our responsibility to connect our resources, to put our energies together to help the larger family, to fill the spiritual need.
She concluded with the message: in all your deliberations, in all your actions, you must be mindful of how your actions will affect the next seven generations.
Dr. Bahija Al-Hishi presented an overview of family from the perspectives of human rights. She showed how childrenís rights are intimately entwined with human rights and family rights. We must realize that, while this is a very complicated issue, the rights of children nevertheless need to be given priority. Children are dependent, the essence of the future, and represent themselves socially; the bottom line is that children need the guarantee to be loved to become healthy-body, mind and soul. As rights, childrenís rights are an essential aspect of human rights.
The unfortunate reality is that childrenís rights are at the bottom of peopleís priority lists. They do not represent a social force and are dependent.
But from this perspective, a very important legally-binding document was issued by the UN in 1989. Now each member nation of the UN is legally responsible. This was the first time laws were framed and made mandatory for participating states: to guarantee healthy childrenís needs.
But the reality of the relationship between family rights and childrenís rights is that there needs to be a way to protect children whose family is the source of abuse. Parentsí rights over their children are not absolute.
Building on this declaration, we need to set minimum standards for the protection of children and establish strategies to place childrenís rights at the top of the list, devising ways to make certain that countries honor these determinations.
Clearly we have to consider peace when we consider children. Talking about peace ultimately leads to discussions of the family. Peace is a necessary condition for families to be able to protect and provide opportunities for their children.
Obviously, wars deprive children of the hope of living in opportunity. And naturally their health is challenged. A secure and peaceful world is the only world which can guarantee such rights for children. Therefore, we have to work for global peace. Letís call on all leaders to sign treaties. Prosperity can only grow in times of peace. Children will not be deprived in peaceful societies.
The role of the media is great at this time. Media should have children in mind when they plan their programs, rather than economics. Concerns for children are usually neglected when they are simply seen as a "niche market."
Dr. Jin Sung Park-Moon
In my field of international finance, the end of this millennium will be dramatic. Now with the Asian currency crisis, weíre in a time when Bill Gates could buy Korea!
Currently the IMF has stepped into the Asian crisis. It seems to have been fairly successful, but the Japanese yen is sliding now. Why is this important from a world peace perspective? For example, unless China grows at 8% per year, there will be dramatic increased unemployment, and this will lead to social instability.
The USA is unique as a unified country-one language, currency and government. When you tie money together, you tie countries together. Unfortunately in Europe, while it will have one currency, without one government, tensions will most likely develop, as will the tendency to point fingers and lay blame.
So while the US may be OK itself, if Asia, Russia and Europe stumble, who will buy our American goods?
But here we are speaking about family.
We need to drive at world peace, not through the global level, since most of us do not have that kind of access. We need to find a way to make it very personal. This we can do through the family.
If we take world peace very personally, the way we can work on world peace is through our own families, not through othersí.
While we have physical abuse, substance abuse, sexual abuse and disrespect for one another in our own families, there can be no peace. Peace in the family is our own work as a son, daughter, sister, brother, mother or father. Even elected officials are all of these!
Dr. Park Moon wanted to share a couple of simple, pragmatic points about strengthening family, and he focused on the husband-wife relationship as the primary relationship providing the basis for peace in the family, the basis upon which children can develop in a healthy and loving environment.
His wife has simplified it to three words: conceive, believe, achieve.
First, if we are to work on and make strong families, we need a concept of the ideal family. To do this, he noted that we have to go back to a fundamental question of Godís existence, for it is from such fundamental perspectives, explicitly or implicitly, that everything else in our thinking and actions flow. That is, our lives are driven implicitly by our answer to this question of the reality of God and spiritual life.
Dr. Park Moonís perspective was shaped profoundly by growing up influenced by Rev. Moon, who sees that God created humanity to be His love partners, not just toys or pets. As such, God divided out His masculinity and femininity into man and woman-equal but different-for the sake of love. Naturally, a man and woman reflect God more fully through their union, through their holy marriage.
So he views life as a journey toward a union which fully reflects God.
He described part of his "concept" to include the key aspects of commitment and fidelity. "I was conceptually married even when I was 12, 15. Even at that age I found myself married to a concept of marriage...knowing the person was out there somewhere."
Because of this concept, and by active belief in this concept, his belief in marriage started many years before actually getting married.
Today, the reality is that all kids are concerned about at school, on TV, in their discussions, is sex. Our responsibility as parents is to present healthy concepts; their choice is whether or not to extend their effort and believe. That is our personal responsibility.
We start to put the conceptions into practice by actualizing the concept.
From one perspective, the unending practice of having girlfriends and boyfriends is essentially practicing for marriage and divorce.
Bottom line, however, it is every natural for children to want to be with both mommy and daddy. Divorce is not a viable option for a young child.
Dr. Park Moon told how he dealt with getting through school and university when surrounded by the peer pressure to date. He approached it as having two options: Option A, to keep himself pure and wait for the special person out there, as if already married to her. Option B, to date and have girlfriends, relationships and apparent fun. He simply thought as follows: "If I stick to option A, I will have plenty of time to opt out for option B. But if I choose option B at a young age, option A is out. From a practical point of view, option A first is the logical choice; it covers both bases."
Continuing with a very frank and honest sharing of the beginning of his arranged marriage with the second daughter of Rev. Moon, he noted that while he was excited and delighted, his wife clearly had the opposite feeling. However, she was committed and serious.
Rev. Moon gave them one piece of advice. "In a good marriage, fighting is normal. Itís far better than not talking to one another. BUT there is one golden rule. Never end the day fighting. Never go to sleep until you have resolved the argument."
He admitted that when men get into an argument, they get sleepy. So with this baseline of commitment to no sleep while angry with his spouse and no divorce, the result is a loving and prized possession: a family with five children.
He concluded that by creating a happy family and living in the best way that each of us can, we are contributing substantially to a peaceful world.
"If each person, each family did this, our world would be in a much better place."
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