MOSCOW: Despite geopolitical problems in a number of fronts, Russia has tried to steal a march on the West in the area of family life and marriage, which have increasingly become major global concerns. Officially atheist from the 1917 revolution that created the Soviet Union until the end of the Cold War in 1991, Russia is now trying to lead the revival of Christian values in Europe by defending the natural family from the global “homosexual lobby.”
This is driven mainly by Russia’s demographic winter, which had cost the country an annual loss of 250,000 people. From 1991 onward, Russia had been hoping to have 600 million people by the year 2000; when the year came, it had no more than140 million. Last year, for the first time in 20 years, the birth rate exceeded the death rate. From 1.3, the birth rate is now 1.7–still below the 2.1 replacement level.
The attempt at revival of the family puts Russia in direct clash with the European Union, which is pushing the homosexual agenda worldwide, particularly among its poorer and weaker allies. This tends to exacerbate political differences with EU and the rest of the West in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere. All of this is reflected in the liberal Western press, beginning with the home-based The Moscow Times.
Still, despite some anxieties about Ukraine, pro-family leaders from 50 countries around the world came to Moscow to take part in the International Forum on “The Large Family and The Future of Humanity” at the Kremlin Palace and the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Savior on Sept. 10-11. At the frontline of the conference were powerful women’s and family organizations, with strong State support.
Chairing it was Natalya Yakunina, who is head of Russia’s national program, “Sanctity of Motherhood,” vice president of “St. Andrew the First Called” and “Center of National Glory” foundations, and ranking member of the presidential coordination council for implementing the National Children’s Strategy for 2012-2017.
Together with 23 others from the US, Canada, UK, Italy, France, Poland, Mexico, Venezuela, Australia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Serbia, and Latvia, I was asked to sit on the Advisory Committee, chaired by Patriarch Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate, and to be one of the keynote speakers, led by the Holy Patriarch Kiril of Moscow and all of Russia, and including the Chief Rabbi of Russia, and Archbishop Vicenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family (through video conference call).
The conference produced a two-page declaration, which called upon governments, the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Secretary General and the UN Supreme Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure utmost protection for the natural family in all its dimensions.
“The preservation of mankind is based on a system of family and kindred ties that are formed through bonds of marriage between a male and a female and the children born to them. This and this alone is ensuring the reproduction, stability and continuity or human civilization. All other kinds of sexual relationships or alliances that intentionally exclude the birth of children are meaningless for they are devoid of the notion set down in the very definition of the word ‘family.’ And no political or economic interests can serve as a pretext for replacing the true and time-tested concept of ‘family’ by any kind of surrogate,” the declaration said.
It appealed to the peoples of the world “to unite amid the threat of total dehumanization of society, and set up a barrier on the road of ideology-lined, state-supported interference in the private lives of people, in an attempt to foist specific sexual lifestyles and preferences of the minority upon the majority.”
One Ukrainian speaker said: “We have one message to the world: Please do not repeat our mistakes.” And stressing that legalized abortion began in Russia in 1920, the final speaker closed the conference by saying that “what began in Russia must end in Russia.”
This is what I told the conference:
It is my third time in four years to come to Moscow to answer, as it were, the call of the Family and the Future of Humankind.
In June 2011, I had the honor of participating in the Moscow Demographic Summit.
In December of 2012, I came to keynote (together with Janice Crowse of the United States) the launching of the National Parents Association of the Russian Federation.
In-between these dates, on October 4, 2012, I was privileged to join Dr. Vladimir Yakunin, the founding president of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations,”and a panel of international speakers at the Forum’s 10th anniversary celebration on Rhodes Island in Greece.
That enabled me to speak of the family as the most undervalued actor in addressing the crisis of our age. I said then that we could never fully attain true human progress until the family was given its due in the natural order of things, and we were able to speak not so much of the “Rise of West” nor of “the Rise of the Rest” as of the “Rise of the Least,” that is to say, the rise of the family, our basic social unit.
The world has changed, and is changing, but not quickly enough to undo all the errors of the past. Population control, which has caused so much that is wrong in the world, has not completely dissipated despite its terrible effects upon families, nations, and the human race itself. One part of Europe is trying to undo those errors, but another part seems determined to propagate them far beyond its borders.
From that other part we get the feeling that the most urgent challenge to us today is how to end all of human life as quickly as possible, whether by means of the most lethal weapons of mass destruction or by means of the whole range of policies and programs intended to extinguish the family as the parent-seed and propagator of civilization.
Since the second half of the last century, certain forces have tried to make the world believe that the future lies in the disappearance of the family. If the world cannot do away with the family, it must at least make it irrelevant and obsolete, miniaturized to the point of invisibility. Family-size products have disappeared, replaced by sachets of almost everything, while houses no bigger than bird cages are built, and measures to prevent births are distributed as relief to the poor and the needy, to victims of conflicts and natural calamities.
To talk therefore of the family–not only of the family but above all of the large family–as the future of humanity is a most dangerous thing to do. For it invites sneers, ridicule and attacks from those who have mistaken political correctness for sound objective morality. But for that very reason, it is an inspired act of faith, hope, and courage. It is to swim against the current and the tide, which we must all do if we are to redirect the course of our history.
Many years ago when I first came to Strasbourg as a visiting parliamentarian, a member of the European Parliament who was directly descended from a former president of France greeted me with the words, “So you come from the Philippines, where you still have large families.” I replied that regrettably it was no longer so–I was one of the last who still had five children at the time (I now have seven, with ten young grandchildren from the four who are married); but that we have nothing against large families.
Not long thereafter, I found myself speaking to the 102 Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Berlin when the 6th billion human being was being born to a poor Bosnian couple. I could not contain my joy, but neither could I understand why so many people seemed to greet the news with alarm, if not panic, rather than with champagne and fireworks, like the fetes de Geneve.
And I said so. Some delegates from the developing countries queued up to thank me for my remarks, but I clearly annoyed some delegates from the First World.
Last July, the population of the Philippines hit 100 million, making us the world’s 12th largest nation, population-wise. We saw this as a great boon to the country. But it was a grave disappointment to those who had earlier risked a Catholic revolt to steamroll a law that prescribes birth control to all Filipinos, “in the name of democracy.”
I have come to this conference prepared to defend the conviction that the full flourishing of the family is a conditio sine qua non for the fulfillment of man’s destiny as the steward of all creation. I wish to thank and commend the organizers most heartily for the warmth and care with which they have received us here. But what you have organized here is not simply a conference but rather the launch of a global moral revolution to change the course of our fallen and misdirected humanity.
This is what the future owes you for what you did here today.