Byline: Don Feder, SPECIAL TO INSIGHT
Mexico City - Martha Fox, wife of Mexican President Vicente Fox, opened the World Congress of Families III in Mexico City late last month by declaring, "No matter what country we come from today, we have a common vision the value of the family. Family is the hope of the world." In his greetings to the congress, President George W. Bush expressed similar sentiments. "Around the world, families are the source of help, hope and stability for individuals and nations," Bush wrote to the delegates.
The World Congress of Families III (WCF III) included more than 3,200 pro-family leaders, scholars and activists from 75 nations who assembled on the last three days of March at Mexico City's Banamex Convention Center. The Family Network, an alliance of Mexican family groups that played host to the congress locally, was a coconvener along with the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society of Rockford, Ill. Reflecting the broad scope and diversity of the congress, sponsors included the Civic Institute (Czech Republic), Real Women of Canada, the Latin American Alliance for the Family (Venezuela), the Australian Family Association, Focus on the Family, the Catholic Family and the Human Rights Institute.
The World Congress of Families was founded in 1997 by Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center. In the same year, the first of these conferences was convened in Prague. WCF II took place in Geneva in 1999. As a sign of the worldwide growth of the pro-family movement, WCF III was almost three times as large as the Geneva conference.
Carlson set three goals for the Mexico City congress: (1) "to mobilize an international pro-family alliance" to counter "forces hostile to traditional family life that have tried to use the U.N. to impose their agenda"; ( 2) "to draw strength from each other and learn from each other"; and (3) "to confront threats to the family including widespread divorce, the derogation of parental rights, homosexual marriage, population-control measures and other governmental assaults on the family."
Again reflecting the diversity of the gathering, speakers included Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo (head of the Pontifical Council for the Family), Rabbi Daniel Lapin of Toward Tradition (Seattle), Farooq Hassan (an international legal consultant from Pakistan), Peter Westmore (president of the National Civic Council of Australia), Anatoli Antonov (a professor at Moscow's Lomonosov University), Babette Francis (Endeavor Forum, Australia) and Wade Horn (assistant secretary for children and families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
In his opening remarks, Carlson proclaimed: "The natural human family is established by the Creator and inscribed in human nature. Governments don't create families. They can recognize and nurture them, or destabilize and delegitimize them."
Just as the family is the foundation of society, marriage is the heart of the family, says Carlson, and "Marriage is also a covenant between the couple and the broader community. The bearing of children within marriage offers the best promise of new community members who will be supported and trained by parents ... and who will grow into responsible adults to contribute to the community's well-being."
In Western democracies the family is under siege. Speaking on "Feminism and the Family," Janice Shaw Crouse, a senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America, detailed the statistics of family decline in the United States. She noted that currently less than 52 percent of households include a married couple; since 1970, the divorce rate has increased by almost 80 percent; at the beginning of this decade, the total number of cohabiting couples approached 5 million; more than 10 million adults younger than 25 will contract a sexually transmitted disease this year; one-third of all children are born out of wedlock; since 1973 abortion has resulted in the deaths of 43 million children; and 59 percent of American children will spend a significant part of their childhood and adolescence in a single-parent family. …