Groups Defend the 'Natural Family'
Nov. 13, 1999
GENEVA (AP) _ Conservative Christian organizations said Saturday they expected 1,000 delegates this weekend in a show of strength for ``traditional families'' with lots of children.
Countering standard United Nations thinking that small families are beautiful, organizers have lined up a key Vatican official and the widow of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat as speakers to help them promote large families that include both parents.
Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders were also among speakers scheduled to speak at the four-day Second World Congress of Families meeting, being held in Geneva, home to the U.N. European headquarters.
Other causes on the agenda include defending marriage and fighting mass schooling, which activists say takes away the parents' rights to educate their children as they see fit.
Speakers at the conference, which begins Sunday and runs until Wednesday, include Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who will speak on renewing the family.
Jehan Sadat's speech is titled: ``Preservation of the family is the promotion of peace.''
``In recent years the human family has been ignored and abused, particularly in certain international assemblies. We are trying to make a positive case,'' said Allan Carlson, director of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.
The center is one of the organizations which called the congress together. Based in Rockford, Illinois, it publishes conservative, pro-family periodicals.
The starting point for the congress is what it calls a ``time-honored'' definition of the family: ``The fundamental social unit, inscribed in human nature and centered around the voluntary union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage.''
Richard Wilkins, professor of law at Brigham Young University in Utah, which is owned by the Mormon church, said although the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the importance of the family, the United Nations has done little to promote families.
``In conference after conference there is discussion of problems such as drug abuse, teen-age sexuality and violence, but the solutions try to supplant and displace the family,'' said Wilkins.
He pointed to the U.N.'s work on children's rights as an example of where the world body is undermining the parents' traditional roles.
The congress will also discuss what organizers call the ``depopulation bomb'' caused by a falling birth rate.
``Once upon a time I believed there was such a thing as overpopulation, but I don't think that any more,'' Carlson said.
Because people are living longer, the welfare system can only be maintained if the population continues to rise, he said.
``The fact that we reached 6 billion inhabitants on the earth recently is a sign of great progress. Those people who decide to create large families, with all the sacrifices that involves, need to be smiled upon. They are doing something that is very positive.''