Conferees Back Traditional Family, Education: Goal Is to Build `Civilization of Love'
Duin, Julia, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
TORONTO - Drawn from 13 countries, 939 persons gathered recently for the second Pan-American Conference on Family and Education, ambitiously titled "Building the Civilization of Love."
The conference, which was presented in three languages with a heavily Catholic overlay, dwelt on how to nourish and encourage families. It drew from a larger pool of international speakers than the typical American conference of its type.
The attendees included large delegations from Latin America, especially since Argentina will host a third Pan-American family conference in 1998. The first such conference - in Monterrey, Mexico, in 1994 - marked the U.N. International Year of the Family. Some 3,000 people attended.
Stay-at-home mothers and Catholic schools were a big hit with attendees at the Memorial Day weekend conference. Speakers criticized working parents for fleeing to the workplace and depositing their children in someone else's hands.
Marguerite Kussmaul, a professor at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, described how the earliest influences on a child can have an impact that few subsequent events can counteract.
"Morality does not come naturally," she said. "It must be imparted. Better still, it must be instilled." Quoting Aristotle's dictum that one learns to live morally before stopping to reflect on it, she explained that "children are natural imitators and nothing compensates for the absence of two parents."
Juvenile crime is skyrocketing, she said, because the family has ceased to be the school for social virtues it once was.
Organizers invited three American Jewish speakers for their thoughts on the family: Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder of Toward Tradition, and author and film critic Michael Medved and his wife, Diane, who is also an author. The Medveds are the parents of three children.
Family Research Council policy analyst Robert Morrison, who also attended the conference, said his reaction was "highly favorable."
"We in the pro-family movement here in the United States tend to feel embattled as we fight issue-by-issue," he said. "What was good about this conference was the long view they took on cultural issues and the possibility of building a culture of love."
One of the more intriguing speakers was Dr. Margaret Ogola, medical director for the Cottolengo Hospice for HIV-positive orphans in Nairobi, Kenya. She castigated American foreign policy for flooding her country with contraceptives, rather than more desperately-needed medical supplies.
"Sixty-seven million good American dollars are being poured into Kenya with the excuse that young people are getting AIDS, which is true," she said, "but there are outlying villages with no medications but plenty of condoms. …