BUDAPEST: After three days of exhaustive presentations on the state of the human family today, delegates from some 60 countries concluded the 11th World Congress of Families, otherwise billed as the Budapest Family Summit, in this city, with a message that clearly transported the issue of the family from the fringes of European politics to its very center, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Hungarian government leading the charge. After Europe the rest of the First World should follow.
Aside from announcing new subsidies for families, especially those with two or more children, and declaring 2018 as a Year for the Family in Hungary, Orban called on other governments to make Europe and the rest of the world more friendly to the basic unit of society. Orban opened the summit last Thursday with his strong pro-family message, before flying to Brussels to attend a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with US President Donald Trump and other European leaders. For the next two days, the Hungarian Minister for Human Capacities Zoltan Balog, and Katalin Novak, the Minister of State for Family, Youth and International Affairs, remained in full attendance at the congress, which is an original initiative of a coalition of faith communities.
Hungary as role model
Orban and the other Hungarian ministers delivered excellent speeches at the first part of the congress, which was billed as the Budapest Demographic Forum and dwelt mainly on the demographic problems of Hungary and Europe. These were simultaneously translated into English and other languages upon delivery, but until this writing the texts on the web were still in Hungarian. I cannot therefore share with the reader what I thought were some great quotes from these family-friendly government leaders.
But this official Hungarian involvement in the WCF, which is an inter-faith initiative, appears to have created a new model of cooperation between government and national and international family organizations on the defense of human life, the family and marriage. This has drawn strong encouragement and support from many Europeans, who are experiencing the same problems of declining births, non-functioning marriages, abortion, same-sex union, and other related problems. But other governments may not find the Hungarian initiative easy to follow.
The broad range of speakers from all over the world were basically agreed that the family, which is the fundamental unit of the nation, should never be marginalized in the making of national policy. But this remains the most serious problem common to governments today. The “Budapest Covenant” drew some thoughts from the speeches of Orban and his ministers to reaffirm its commitment to the natural family as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society that is part of the created order, and ingrained in human nature, and entitled to deference by and protection by all governments.”
A new covenant
“The natural family begins with the bonds of marriage, understood as the coming together of one man and one woman, for life, for the purpose of procreation, the rearing of offspring, and mutual care and support,” the Covenant said.
The Covenant reiterated the following fundamental points:
The natural family is the true reservoir of liberty, and the foundation of effective democracy;
Public support for families and human freedom are fully compatible;
All laws and public policies should strive to be family-friendly;
Children are blessings to parents and extended families, enhancing their strength;
Children are also blessings to nations, for without them there is no continuity;
Among modern nations, natural population growth is a sign of optimism and social health;
Human life, from conception to natural death, is sacred; and
The complementarity of men and women is a source of human strength; when a man and a woman unite in marriage, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
Recalling the first covenant in sacred Scripture between God and his people whom He blessed according to His promises, the Congress called on peoples and nations to build alliances and make a new covenant of commitment to the natural family as the fundamental and sustainable unit of society; build legal and constitutional protections around marriage as exclusively the union of one man and one woman for life; protect prenatal and infant life; affirm the right of parents to guide the education of their children; create schooling and media that give children positive images of morality, marriage, fidelity, motherhood and fatherhood; provide special legal provisions that protect families, motherhood, and childhood; support in meaningful ways both families with a full-time parent at home and those where both parents seek to balance family and outside employment; and place the natural family on the center stage of political and cultural life.
The Hungarian welcoming statement cited the participation of non-European countries like Venezuela and the Philippines as one of the indisputable proof of the worldwide support for the inviolability of the natural family across all religions and cultures. My wife and I and a senior pastor from Singapore were the only visible Southeast Asians in the Congress; Apostle Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore delivered an inspired speech on opening day, while I spoke on the second day on the topic of “Building Family Friendly Countries.”
My speech, like all the others, was simultaneously translated into several languages, but because of requests for the original text, even from the Hungarians and non-English speakers, I am reproducing it here as delivered.
Throughout the congress, I was approached by friends to ask me about the possibility of holding a future World Congress of Families in Manila or even in Cebu. I could only say that while Filipinos remained deeply family-centered and committed to the sanctity of human life and marriage, the present government may not be completely sympathetic.
Many delegates have heard some things about President Rodrigo Duterte, but not enough to form an opinion about him or his stand on human life, the family and marriage. No European appeared to have heard that a few days before the Budapest conference, he had renounced all grants and aids from the European Union because of their alleged interference in the internal affairs of the Philippine government.
I stayed clear of any DU30-related issue in my short address, as the following text shows.
Building family-friendly countries
It is such a joy and privilege to be here in Budapest at this time to share in this global celebration of the family. No greater cause could have brought us all together here. It was through the family that civilization first began; it is through the family that the life of the world has been renewed after every great catastrophe and trial; it is through the family that human civilization will ultimately prevail after the current regime of death and destruction passes us by.
Where the Hungarian Constitution says “the family is the basis of the nation’s survival,” our own Philippine Constitution says, “the family is the foundation of the nation;” and marriage, “the foundation of the family.” To all of us in this Congress, the sanctity of the family is inviolable. Yet throughout history, the family has been at the receiving end of political power. And, more often than not, of destructive and ruinous political power. Whether under a democrat or under a dictator, the family has always needed to protect itself from the invasive claims of those who wield often unaccountable power. Thus, when a government puts the rights and well-being of the family above all other competing claims, that indeed is more than a blessing.
What we owe Europe
We cannot thank Hungary enough for this global witness for the family at this time. For we cannot say it often enough that it was through Europe that the narrative of our Christian family entered the history of many nations. For my country, which marks 500 years of Christianity in just four years, it was through Spain that Christianity came to our archipelago and made us a predominantly Catholic Christian nation in a vast sea of non-believers. It was also here in Europe where the political and cultural attack on the Christian faith and family ultimately exacted its heaviest toll.
We cannot forget, how can we, that Europe and Christianity—Christenheit oder Europa, according to Novalis—were once one and interchangeable. And that, in the West, God lost his preeminent place in the public square only after Christian families ceased being Christian and stopped defending what was sacred and inviolable within their own homes. In much of the world today, the Christian family has all but disappeared. Where before life and love began and flourished in the home, in many rich and powerful countries today the home is a desert where life and love are denied the unborn, the disabled, the elderly, the very poor, and fatherhood, motherhood, and child-bearing are targeted for permanent extinction by an ideology that seeks to redefine marriage and the family and replace them with a false reality called “same-sex union.”
A Christian rebirth needed
Therefore the Christian family—not just the family as a biological unit, but as the first basic communion of Christian believers—that which the Roman Catechism calls the “first domestic Church,” and through which children learn the values of their parents—must be truly reborn. Rebirth must come from the simultaneous efforts of individual men and women, families and family associations, civic and religious groups, political parties and constitutional governments that recognize that the family precedes the State, and must be supported by it not only in its material development but above all in the pursuit of its spiritual and supernatural ends. Poor nations must now stand together against all anti-life and anti-family impositions of the more powerful nations.
For too long, families have had to fight for the right to “become what they are,” as St. John Paul II puts it in his apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio. They have had to fight for the basic right to bear children. This grievous injustice must end now. Families do not just have the right, but above all the duty to “become what they are,” and to bear children, who will bear the seed of the future of mankind. The sanctity of human life must be restored above any consumerist idea of human welfare, and this must happen in every human being, in every marriage, in every home. It must be the basis of every majority vote on every relevant issue in every congress, parliament or court. The State must work with and for the family, not against it, and serve the total person in every one of its members, in every situation.
A spiritual Marshall Plan?
The rebuilding of the family could demand far greater work and sacrifices than were perhaps demanded of this continent during its postwar reconstruction under the Marshall Plan. I do not know exactly what this means. But I can only repeat what a great Croatian friend told St. Pope John Paul II in one of our meetings in Rome, that in every other battle, we don’t know the outcome until the very end, but that in the fight for human life and the family, we know we have already won, except that we have to fight a little bit more. For we are fighting God’s war, not just his battles.
Europe must believe that mankind’s future does not lie in marital infidelities, in divorce, in contraception, in sterilization, in abortion, in euthanasia, in assisted suicide, in same-sex union, and in other addictions that seek to make a tomb out of the cradle of our civilization. We in the Third World believe that a much happier society, based on much happier Christian families, is not only necessary but is the real future dying to be born.