The Words of the Balcomb Family
New York, USA - More than 400 UN diplomats, Ambassadors, NGO representatives, and faith leaders gathered at the United Nations Headquarters May 18 to celebrate the UN International Day of Families, in an event organized by the Universal Peace Federation and sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Guinea, with additional sponsorship from the Permanent Missions of Ethiopia, Iraq, Nigeria, Qatar, Sudan, and the African Union.
The keynote guest address was given by Dr. Deepak Chopra. “We are literally members not only of the same breath, but of the same body,” he said. “Every single one of us recycles our whole body with the rest of the universe every year. We are one with the world and with each other. The trees out there are your lungs. If they do not breathe, you do not breathe. The rivers are your circulation. There is no separation, only differentiation. We have confused the two.”
He quoted Albert Einstein’s statement that no problem will ever be solved in the level of consciousness that it was created. “Terms like the war on terrorism, the war on drugs, and the war on poverty, are metaphors of a violent mind, metaphors of a past that is over. We should no longer talk about survival of the fittest but survival of the wisest.”
“Are you really interested in having peace in the world?” Chopra asked. “If you are, can you make a commitment to peace right now, here at the UN? Start with your family, and then let’s extend it. The whole world is my family. That is the message I want to give you at the United Nations today.”
The UN celebration was also the opportunity for the UPF to report the contributions of its chapters around the world to the UN International Day of Families. Celebrations were held in over 55 cities in 22 nations, and more reports are coming in.
The audience was welcomed by H.E. U. Joy Ogwu, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria. “We are glad to welcome you to the United Nations as global citizens,” she said. “The family is the fulcrum and the central point of society, and the UN tries to promote the incorporation of the family viewpoint into all sectors of society.”
H.E. Nassir A. Al-Nasser from the Mission of Qatar emphasized the support that Qatar has given to the family, including hosting an international conference on the family in 2004 which resulted in the adoption of the Doha Declaration on the Family.
Thomas Walsh, Secretary General of the UPF, closed the session with a reminder that the family is the place where we should learn the ways of peace. “Before any one of us enters a school, university, or seminary,” he said, “we all learn our first lessons of love and peace from our mothers and fathers. And despite our differences, every family and every faith wants the same thing.”
Quoting the UPF Co-Chair, Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, Dr. Walsh said “The family is universal. Regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion, we are all members of families. However, although all religions agree that marriage and family are the fundamental building blocks of any society, the reality is that all nations are in danger of losing these most valuable traditions and institutions. Divorce and family breakdown are at an all-time high. Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise, even among the youngest teenagers. Violence and crime among young people are on the rise, and many say they have little hope of securing dignified, meaningful jobs to support their future families.”
The social and economic cost of this breakdown of the family is staggering. The breakdown of the family contributes directly to poverty, disease, child mortality and is possibly the single most significant obstacle to the fulfillment of the UN Millennium Development Goals. If we are to realize “One Family Under God” we must invest, “one family at a time.”
The second session focused on “Women and the Family” and was chaired by H.E. Mrs. Lila Hanitra Tatsifandrihamanana, the Ambassador of the African Union to the UN. Moving beyond a sense of general celebration, she reminded the audience that women and children around the world continue to bear the brunt of the burden of the breakdown of the family.
“This beautiful meeting chamber is a far cry from the daily reality faced by almost a half of the world’s mothers and children,” she said. “If this day is to be a real celebration, we had better use our time here to consider what can be done to bring permanent change.”
“Even though Africa has more than its fair share of these problems, I believe that Africa also carries the seeds for a solution within its rich family traditions,” she said. “Our model of the extended family of relations helping and supporting each other is among the strongest in the world. As the old African proverb says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’”
Closing remarks were given by Dr. Ki Heun Kim, Co-Chair of UPF. "It is important to note that for years, the UPF Founder, Dr. Sun Myung Moon, has stressed that we are in an age where the leadership of women is of paramount importance," he said. "Moreover, all religions and traditions share the same core values, especially about the family. We need to learn from all of them if we are to establish a world of peace. This is why the UPF has summarized its message as one simple phrase, 'One Family Under God.'"
Around the world, the Universal Peace Federation hosted United Nations International Day of Families celebrations in 55 cities and 22 nations. Programs included service projects, visitations to orphanages and senior citizens’ homes, art and music contests, and symposia and conferences on strengthening the family.