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UN International Day of Families 2012

Day of Families Observed in Washington D.C.

Washington, DC, USA - The Universal Peace Federation’s May 29 program on the UN International Day of Families 2012: Ensuring Work Family Balance, was co-sponsored by The Washington Times Foundation.

The Mistress of Ceremonies, Tomiko Duggan, welcomed 80 guests from the diplomatic corps and NGO community to the luncheon at The Washington Times. A short video on the continuing projects of UPF was shown, and then Larry Moffitt, Vice President of The Washington Times Foundation, introduced the first speaker, Mr. Tom McDevitt, President of The Washington Times newspaper. Mr. McDevitt praised the participants for their support of families and children.

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McDevitt said that his paper tries to support families through simple basic values: “Freedom is not a license to do as we want, but must be in balance with responsibility.” There is also a need for freedom from poverty, terrorism, and other important threats. "Family" is where parents are dedicated to protect and raise children well. Someone must highlight the positives, and that is what his newspaper tries to do. In an interfaith world, it honors faith that promotes understanding and cooperation. “We have to work together globally,” he added, and “people wish to trust the voice of the capital of the U.S.”

Next, Mr. Moffitt then introduced the ambassador from Bulgaria to the U.S., H.E. Elena Borislavova Poptodorova Petrova. Ambassador Poptodorova helped to establish the rule of law in Bulgaria, which brought her is the highest award she has received, yet her most favorite award is in education because she cares deeply about the family.

She began by thanking UPF for its outreach to all nations, including her own. “The International Day of Families was established on May 15, 1994. Why did it take so long to establish?” she asked. This day was established to protect the family and promote the purpose of the family. “Something was going wrong, and they decided that the family needed protecting in order for the world to progress further,” she stated.

“The establishment of this day indicates the common qualities of the family, yet the social structure and the structure of the family were changing. Smaller households, a change in the workforce make-up, and different structures in the family such as more single parents - all required greater education of women and the greater involvement of women in politics and public affairs.” She explained that her country is more patriarchal, with the expectation that women "keep the hearth." She lamented that there was little focus on burden sharing, which makes it much more difficult for the women. She related that women are seldom able to stay home, since many countries are experiencing economic difficulties. She compared this time to that of the Industrial Revolution, where everyone’s lives were changing.

“Our country is a poor country, but we have good legislation to protect children, and new mothers receive a two-year paid maternity leave. There is also a good kindergarten system which local governments support. Balancing work and family is always an issue,” she added. The cost and burden of caring for children must be shared, she said. She concluded by saying that to keep both partners have an important role in creating and keeping balance in the family.

The next speaker was Mrs. Lynn Walsh, adjunct professor of Marriage and Family Certification at the University of Bridgeport and Director of UPF's Office of Marriage, Family and Human Development. She began by showing a copy of the recently-published book she brought for everyone, produced by the Doha Institute for the United Nations, The Family and the MDGs: Using Family Capital to Achieve the 8 Millennium Development Goals. The book begins with a quote by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “The majority of the Millennium Development targets, especially those relating to the reduction of poverty, education of children and reduction in maternal mortality, are difficult to attain unless the strategies to achieve them focus on the family.”

Yet, Mrs. Walsh told the audience, the UN doesn’t see supporting the family as an integral part of the solution to the world’s problems.  Her talk highlighted the third Millennium Development Goal, gender equality and empowering women. There has been some progress in this area with the increase in education and the number of women in leadership roles, but “Women still lag behind. Policies must change. Discrimination comes from a problem within the human heart … which is developed in the family,” she stated. She added that the family is the place where one learns to value others; it is the school of love.

The final speaker was Professor Syafaatun Almirzanab, professor of Islam and Middle Eastern Politics and Diplomacy at the University of Indonesia, Jakarta. She received two doctorates, both from Christian universities. She lived in a Coptic seminary in Egypt to research Christian-Muslim cooperation and is currently doing research in the Netherlands and Indonesia.

She wished to describe the situation in her country of Indonesia. She focuses on Christian-Muslim relations. She talked about women’s struggles and how difficult it is for them to maintain their families during national upheaval. When migrant peoples move into another religion’s area, difficulties ensue. Yet not every difficulty is about religious strife, she added. Conflicts in her nation have brought much stress to women and their families.

Historically, women have been leaders in resisting colonialism from the 1600s on. Women’s rights have been supported through Islamic organizations. Unfortunately, women have been left outside leadership and decision-making. "We have found that some women’s solidarity groups do not represent the women properly," she declared. Women need greater support to enhance their ability to care for their families. Women want to vote for candidates who can benefit peace, but they have less access to information to make good decisions. Many women leaders belong to this organization and work to help those who have suffered; she concluded by sharing specific examples of these women’s lives.

The program was rounded out by a stirring song by Mrs. Nane Goto, “We Are One Family,” after which many in the audience rose to their feet in applause.

Four Ambassadors for Peace were appointed: Mr. John Pinna, Government and International Relations Director for the American Islamic Congress; Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad from the Nation of Islam; Mrs. Suki Moon Hendrix, a business woman from Virginia; and Professor Syafaatun Almirzanah. The program was concluded with a traditional toast to peace.

To read more about UPF observances of the International Day of Families 2012, click here.

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