The Words of the Hartley Family

Religious Support for Marriage Commitment in the UK

Edward Hartley
July 28, 2009
UPF-UK Marriage and Family Initiative

London, UK - “Promotion of stable marriages and the commitment this requires is one of the most powerful ways we can contribute, both as religious and non-religious people, to rebuilding an unbroken, positive, peaceful Britain,” stated Edward Hartley, the MC for a July 18 conference in Central London on the topic of “Commitment in Marriage in World Faiths in Modern-day Britain.” The conference was jointly sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation and the Women's Federation for World Peace.

After quoting recent press articles on statements made by Mr. Justice Coleridge, a Family Division judge, and the BBC journalist John Ware as examples of topics of current debate in the media in the UK about the value of marriage, to set the scene, he then invited the audience to hear from speakers from four different faiths on the topic of the conference, first from an older and then from a young adult speaker from those faiths.


“In Sikhism, marriage should create one soul in two bodies; the four vows are intended to seal the commitment between the couple," stated Mr. Jatinder Birdi of the Warwick Interfaith Forum. “However, what do faiths really offer to marriage today?” he asked. “There is often no guidance given; there used to be an explanation offered about the marriage relationship but not anymore. There is also widespread denial that breakdowns occur -- but they do. Old traditions are becoming unfashionable but they should be revived. Also government, both national and local, needs to offer support.”

Mr. Birdi was followed by his younger counterpart, Ms. Sarnjit Kaur, explaining how teenagers would appreciate guidance from trusted (experienced) persons but end up discussing with each other! People are scarred by the media, particularly TV. In Sikhism there are so many beautiful traditions and so much guidance available, but it is not being used. There are some highly educated people involved on a secular level, but there is a lot of fear, particularly in the Asian community, and a focus on infatuation rather than appropriate love. "We need many events and workshops to show Sikhs the possibilities of having harmonious, happy marriages," she concluded.


Mr. Narattam Pandey, representing the Hindu faith, gave a moving description of the beautiful ceremonies involved in a Hindu marriage and the deep commitment to each other that is instilled at every stage. “This is a burning issue today,” he said. “A proper ceremony which totally prepares the couple to dedicate to each other forever takes at least five hours but people want everything done super quick these days (and miss the point of what they are entering into).” The organizers of this conference could recommend studying this beautiful tradition as one example of how seriously people used to take commitment in marriage -- for good reason. As another Hindu participant said: “Hinduism is not so much a religion as a way of life!”

Mr. Ujjwal Banga, who had just recently got married (traditionally) to his wife Gudipta, posed the question of why there are so many problems in the UK. Marriage is all about sharing one’s life with another, becoming fear-free, independent, and then entering into this wonderful relationship which helps us go further in life and gives us what we can offer to the next generation. "We learn, amongst other things," he said, "about how to be compassionate and respectful and can learn how to control violence and mental health problems (caused or at least aggravated by not having the support of a good spouse). We should be really committed, take marriage seriously, and follow the religious teachings to fully enjoy what marriage can offer!"

Women's Federation for World Peace

We then heard the first of two presentations from the hosts for the day, a very well thought-out presentation by Mrs. Taeko Duckworth, Vice President of Women's Federation for World Peace-UK, who said: "A man and woman together represent the complete expression of God’s full image to this world, and they are not separable even in their origin. When a man and woman grow individually to maturity, they naturally come to seek the other half who will complete them. They want to become one in a harmonious way with love and respect, so that God can reveal Himself through their concord. Whatever school teachers, friends, and media talk about, the family is the school of love, source of wisdom, and origin of power for every one of us. The parents are the key figures who run this particular school."


After a short break with lively discussion, Imam Mamadou, a senior representative of the Muslim faith, enlightened us by explaining that there is no society without the family. Marriage is a God-given gift and should bring tranquility and peace. Islam can offer society a solution to the self-interested, often immature, relationship choices made by young people today, by the way it brings couples together. He believes that 50 to 60 percent of young Muslim people enter marriage as virgins. “Generally we let young people do whatever they like in UK society,” he said, “and this leads to many social problems! They need to understand healthy limits to their behavior. Also the offers made to single-parent families by the welfare state virtually encourage young girls to get pregnant to get themselves set up with money and a house from the state. Concerning marriage, Islam is about how to make marriages last and how to liberate women. We remember that it was a woman who supported the Prophet to spread Islam.”

There was a delegation at the event from Birmingham, and they are doing excellent work in this field. Among them was Nasrin Shah, who spoke as the young representative of Islam. She explained about how she had had many negative feelings about marriage and her possible role as a wife in an Islamic marriage but then began to read the Qur'an and found so many uplifting and encouraging passages, also for wives. She realized that she would be protected in that relationship, but could continue to fully be herself. “God wants marriages to work,” she said, “We should work together as equal partners on the level of both the head and the heart!”


The Unificationist tradition was then presented by Mr. Tim Miller, who talked about striving for individual maturity as a person of integrity, then marrying and building a family which embodies God’s love, life, and lineage, thus creating a foundation for peace on all levels from the family to world affairs. "Fidelity is something not talked about too much in UK society," he noted, "but it is essential for a stable society. We have also lost the balance between freedom and responsibility, wanting all of the former but not being conscious enough of the latter. In our heart of hearts we all want stable committed loving relationships; we just need to make the investment required." Mr. Miller explained about the large weddings conducted by Unificationists which often involved blessing prayers offered by representatives of all of the major world faiths.

The young representative of the Unificationist tradition, Jonathan Bateman, explained how he applied the teachings of his faith at university. He could see how his friends from families with good values, passed on to them by their parents, did well while those from more unstable families struggled. "The family should be a school of love," he said, "but we are bombarded by the media and can be influenced by the wrong understanding of our friends." His experiences solidified his faith and encouraged him to stay pure until he marries (he is now engaged). He said he came to his own conclusions and is grateful that his parents guided him so well.

Marriage and Family Initiative

The MC, Edward Hartley, then took on his role as Chairman of the UPF UK Marriage and Family Initiative (with his supportive wife, Patricia), and gave a presentation about the work which the Universal Peace Federation is doing in this field. He started with a short presentation concerning the situation of marriage and family life in the UK today. He outlined how the relative instability of couple relationships other than marriage, the poor quality of many still intact marriages (therefore, the need for marriage enrichment education), and the costs to UK society of family breakdown which, according to the Relationships Foundation, is £37 bn. per year! "We should, therefore, do whatever we can to help solve these problems," he concluded.

The presentation finished with a list of the past and current activities of the UPF initiative and reference to the brand new report (published on 17/07/09) from the Relationships Foundation about increasing use of Couple Relationship Education to reach 50 percent of the eligible population within 10 years. He proposed a final call to action to those present, with the words, “Please consider joining us to support the promotion of appropriate education in your particular faith, or sphere of influence.” Details of this talk are contained in the attached PowerPoint presentation.

The opportunity was then given for contributions to be made from the floor. Mr. Alan Rainer, an education specialist, explained how young people should form their own ethics through coming to their own conclusions (inferring the need to get healthy messages out as well as some of the very questionable influences the media can have). Rev. Professor Okeem, a Christian minister and a member of the UPF UK Marriage and Family Committee, reminded the audience of the Christian perspective on marriage and commitment. Mr. Nicholas Rawlence offered some further information on the subject of character education, and there was also some discussion about subjects such as celibacy before marriage and the fact that one man is allowed to have many wives in some faiths.

Dr. Raheem Khan, a founding member of the UPF UK Marriage and Family Committee, expressed appreciation to all of the speakers and the audience, and the meeting was then concluded. A group photograph was taken of the happy participants.

A lively discussion with a number of participants took place afterwards focusing mainly on practical action which they can take in their particular area of influence. There is indeed great hope that this event will bear very positive fruits. 

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