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UN International Day of Families 2009

Day of Families Celebrated in London

London, United Kingdom - The UN International Day of Families was supported by an enthusiastic, interfaith audience revealing the universal interest and concern for the family. There were presentations on "Preparation and Early Support for Family Life" from Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Jain and Unificationist perspectives as well as an explanation of the value of Couple Relationship Education by the Chair of the UPF Marriage and Family Committee, Eddie Hartley. The conclusion was presented by the Chair of the Westminster United Nations’ Association, David Wardop, who referred to the United Nations as a world family whose work of quiet diplomacy solves many of the world’s problems.

The UN International Day of Families is regularly supported by the UPF worldwide. The event in the UPF Headquarters was one of several occurring around the UK.

Representatives of each religion shared about the beauty of the marriage ceremony and the holy institution of marriage. Each also shared that marriage is hard work with difficult times to overcome. The faith institution has a big responsibility to counsel and guide their members.

Sukhbir Singh explained the Sikh perspective of the family. He mentioned that Guru Nanak had said a married couple was not really married if they were not fused into one spirit. Marriage is a sacred institution that is the process of two people becoming two bodies and one spirit. Marriage is a spiritual unity not just a relationship. Young in the Sikh faith are taught to love and respect parents and grandparents. They can learn emotional care and democratic decision making in the family that prepares them with the resources to promote peace.

Professor Ursula King reflected on how to assist the renewal of marriage not just to maintain marriage in a conservative sense that restricts people. She saw marriage as having elements of hands, head, and heart. We are part of the web of life. It requires a great deal of consistent effort to make a successful marriage.

She added that friends of hers who had divorced had shared that if they had understood what marriage is really about they would have made more effort, and then it could have worked out better.

Within a marriage there should be the freedom to have room for inner growth. Sadly many women are downtrodden and suppressed within marriage. She remarked that she saw some graffiti recently that expressed, "Remember you are loved." It is true that every cell of our body is infused in love. There are no cells that can exist and function separately. They always work in communities. We need love to transform our world. We can learn it best in the family and with friends.

Bishop James Larbi explained that according to the Christian faith God established the marriage relationship. The family was established by God when God said it is "not good for man to be alone." You make a full and unconditional promise to your spouse. Communication is so important to understand each other. Love is a continual courtship that does not end with the first step; you need to keep going. For this, quality time is important not just for children but for husband and wife as well. He added that there is no trial basis for marriage. It is not a matter of couples living together before marriage. It is all or nothing. Does the other share my values? Pope Paul II said the future of humanity passes through the family.

Samani Prasanna Pratyga from the Jain faith shared that there are training courses for many jobs in the world; however, the lack of training for marriage means that many couples end up divorcing. There should be a system of training for marriage. Even though she was a nun, many people came to her for advice about marriage problems. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, and they come to know that they must be pure within marriage. The Jain scriptures provide wise guidance for avoiding and resolving conflicts.

David Wardrop is a board member of the United Nations Association and Chairman of UNA Westminster. The United Nations is a greater family of humanity, he said. The UN extended family is spread throughout the world. He compared the UN to the work of marriage savers who work through quiet diplomacy that is never reported. Next week is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, commemorating the 190 UN Peacekeepers who died in action. Eighty nationalities will be represented in that ceremony, showing the scope of the UN as an extended family.

He thought that faith communities were often a barrier to the completion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "If we had waited for the faith communities to have a common voice in 1945 we would still be waiting," he added. He said he likes to challenge faith groups to post on their websites their policies on the major UN declarations such as the Rights of the Child, Gender Equality, Human Rights, and Prohibition of Torture. The family brings us together, while, unfortunately, faiths have been separating us.

To read UPF's Declaration on Families, click here.

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