Landmark Conference at UN Promotes a “Family-Friendly World”

By Wendy Wright | May 19, 2016

NEW YORK, May 20 (C-Fam) “We are gathered here to celebrate the family,” said Afaf Konja. The former UN spokeswoman and the youngest of eight children then proceeded to get personal.

“It is my mother who taught me unconditional love, compassion, forgiveness and spirituality and through whom I was first introduced to the profound presence of God in my life. It was my father who gave me the courage to live with an open heart as I watched the decisions he made,” she said. “Yet the family has not received the attention it deserves” at the UN.

Konja moderated a half-day event at the UN on “Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World,” hosted by dozens of countries and groups.

The countries are working together as the Group of Friends of the Family.


Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World photo exhibition located in the UN Visitors’ Lobby now through June 12th.

Valentin Rybakov, deputy minister of foreign affairs of Belarus, introduced the Group’s declaration that notes the myriad of ways the family nurtures individuals and is “a key actor in the transmission of values within society that are vital” to development.

The family “forms a protective environment against external threats and give hope for the future for all of its members,” Rybakov said.

Religious leaders kicked off the first panel.

“God placed Adam in paradise,” but he did not enjoy paradise until he had a wife, said Imam Shamsi Ali. The father of six said the “beginning of the pursuit of happiness is in the home.”

“Rest, peace, and tranquility must begin at home. Home must be our own paradise on this planet. The very first school in a human’s life is in their home.”

“Being free does not mean undermining the family,” Imam Ali said.

“The titles that mean the most to us when we take our last breath are of husband, father, wife, mother because marriage and family are profoundly sacred,” said Pastor Jim Garlow of the Skyline Church in San Diego.

Bishop John O’Hara likened the challenges today to that at the founding of the UN.

Before World War II, Cardinal Suhard saw “the world falling apart and totalitarianism on the rise” and challenged people they had “responsibility to bring order out of chaos,” Bishop O’Hara said.

C-Fam Staff sitting outside the United Nations (from left: Austin Ruse, Marianna Orlandi, Lisa Correnti, Stefano Gennarini, Rebecca Oas, and Catherine Birri).

C-Fam staff outside the UN in front of the banner promoting the special high-level event (from left: Austin Ruse, Marianna Orlandi, Lisa Correnti, Stefano Gennarini, Rebecca Oas, and intern Catherine Birri).

After World War II, “in a world where individuals were tossed aside and family destroyed,” the mural in the UN Security Council was created “showing the true restoration of society comes through the family.”

“Family is central in our diverse religious traditions. Without family, we lose the sacredness of each person and lose our identity,” Bishop O’Hara said. “Lasting peace and true harmony is built on the solid rock of the family.”

This “rings true to us today as a challenge that as sacredness of the family, of husband and wife is threatened, redefined, distorted we need to bring order out of chaos. Otherwise we’ll be building our society on sand, not the solid rock.”

Annie Franklin of Family Watch International also drew attention to the Security Council mural on the panel showcasing experts. The mural shows “family is the phoenix that regenerates society from within.”

“The basis of the family is marriage,” said scholar Sherif Girgis. “Marriage is found in all ancient cultures. Man and woman come together to be husband and wife and to be father and mother to any children they rear.”

“Marriage unites children to their parents, and to their being reared by the man and woman who gave them life. It gives children the best shot of waking up under the same roof as the man and woman who gave them life,” Girgis said. It serves health and education, and all the things necessary for healthy society and political life.

“Changing the vision of marriage undermines every aspect of the common good that marriage serves,” he warned.

“If family is worth celebrating, so are the laws and policies that protect it,” said Susan Yoshihara of C-Fam. Despite political differences “we can all agree that fundamental rights should be protected.”

“Man and woman are equally important to the family, and the state must protect parents’ rights, ” said Yoshihara. “The inherent nature of the family is powerful and fragile, and needs to be cared for.”

The change in marriage law has “shut down dialogue, and put us in corners like boxers in a ring. It pits the teacher against the parent, and forces children to take sides. It seems to be about winning even if the child loses,” she said.

“We’re not made for solitary confinement,” said professor Helen Alvare. The dynamic harmony of the family, to desire the good for another, cannot be manufactured or legislated and is undermined by treating people as just a body, a sexual object. No other institution cares for the vulnerable like family, she observed.

Professor David Crawford tied identity to family, and family as a buffer against totalitarianism. Some say community and individual rights are in tension, he noted. “But we are communal beings, and the family is the natural community.” The family wards against men and women being reduced to creatures of the state.

Ambassadors then took turns describing their countries’ high view of the family. The developing countries Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Sudan, Iran and Tajikistan highlighted the “cherished” role of the family—and said the UN should foster respect for it.

Russia encouraged countries to monitor UN officials and agencies from encroaching on the rights of the family, and cautioned that agencies in Geneva, the headquarters on human rights, humanitarian aid and refugees, need particular watching.

Austin Ruse of C-Fam singled out countries in the room for their actions in past UN negotiations to protect the family from the sexual revolution. He also announced a new coalition, the Civil Society for the Family, to encourage countries to defend the family.

“It is an honor to be among brave people standing up for things that unite us all, that is, the natural family,” he said.


Photo: Pastor Jim Garlow of the Skyline Church in San Diego; Valentin Rybakov, deputy minister of foreign affairs of Belarus; Afar Konja, Oh Joon the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Republic of Korea to the United Nations; Bishop John O’Hara, Episcopal Vicar of both southern Manhattan and Staten Island; Imam Shamsi Ali, Director of Jamaica Muslim Center in NYC.