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Just as a deep lake is clear and still, even so, on hearing the teachings and realizing them, the wise become exceedingly peaceful.
|Lagos Conference on Marriage and Family|
|By UPF - Nigeria|
|Thursday, June 07, 2012|
Lagos, Nigeria - June 6 was the third day of national mourning declared by President Goodluck Jonathan after a passenger plane crash at Iju-Ishaga, Lagos on June 3 which claimed the lives of 163 persons. A national tragedy indeed! The mood at the Lagos Airport Hotel, venue for the UPF Nationwide Conference on Marriage and Family as Instruments for Peace and National Development, was somber as the crash and its aftermath still made the headlines. Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola, who was scheduled to grace the opening session, was absent due to the mourning. All the same, the conference took off on schedule. It was a very rich conference.
Professor Ralph Akinfeleyem a member of the governing council of the University of Lagos and head of the Department of Mass Communication, chaired the opening session. He stressed the importance of the theme of the conference for the promotion of unity in Nigeria and recommended that the discussions cover the idea of marriage and family as means of achieving national integration. In other words, the theme of the conference ought to read “Marriage and Family as Instruments for Peace, National Development, and Integration,” he said.
After an introductory video on UPF, the address titled “God’s Ideal Family and the Ideal Peace Kingdom” was presented. This is a speech that the founders of UPF, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, delivered during their world speaking tours in 2005 and 2006. That speech is as relevant today in the Nigerian context as it was when it was initially delivered. Not only did it set the tone for the discussion that followed, it became the point of reference for other presenters in the entire conference.
During the working sessions, a total of seven papers were presented representing Christian, Muslim, and traditional Yoruba perspectives on marriage and family. The speakers had the task to define core values on marriage and family according to their own traditions. The other four speakers were scholars who made their presentations from the perspective of the social sciences.
In Nigeria, four classifications of marriage are recognized: marriage based on Christian rites, marriage according to Islamic (Sharia) law, marriage by the act (through the courts or marriage registries), and marriage according to native laws and customs. It is possible for a couple to marry based on three of the above systems. For example, a couple may marry based on Christian rites, if they are Christians, and still perform native customary marriage rites; afterwards, they still go to court to obtain the court certificate.
The first paper was that of Dr. Passy Amaraegbu, Executive Director of the Center for Marriage and Family Stability in Lagos, titled Christian Perspective of Marriage and Family in Nigeria – Challenges and Prospects. According to him, in Christianity, marriage is a loving union of two adults: a man and a woman, who must live separate from their parents, have avoided premarital sex, and have committed to sex only between both of them throughout their lives on earth. Divorce is undesirable. He attributed the challenges to the Christian standards of marriage and family to secular humanism and other religious influences that permit lower standards and offer such as alternative forms of legitimate family life. While encouraging higher standards of accountability in moral conduct, he urged greater patronage of biblically grounded counselors in order to overcome marital challenges and to attain the required Christian standards of marriage and family.
The second paper was that of Kamildeen Najeemdeen, Head Imam of Mufazir Abesan Estate Muslim Community, Lagos. His paper was on the Islamic Perspective of Marriage and Family. He listed the purpose of marriage in Islam as a means of emotional and sexual gratification, a mechanism for tension reduction, and a means for legitimate procreation and social placement. In an Islamic marriage, gender roles and expectations are clearly defined. He stated some causes of marital and family crises such as, poverty, differences in family backgrounds, unnecessary interference by relatives, ignorance, and unpreparedness for marriage. He concluded by calling for thorough marriage and family preparatory classes for young men and women before marriage.
The Yoruba traditional perspective was presented by Prince Adesina Obanisola on behalf of the traditional ruler of Shomolu Bariga, Lagos, HRM Oba Gbolahan Timson Jagunmolu III. The definition of marriage and family goes beyond the relationship of a man and a woman. The emphasis is on the extended family. Marriage between a man and a woman is, therefore, an inter-family relationship. Both monogamy and polygamy are practiced. The man has sexual freedom in and out of wedlock, but the woman has no such freedom. The man is clearly the absolute center of the family. He asserted that the system promoted a high level of discipline in the family and stability in the larger society. He blamed the current rampant ills of society on the overthrow of the traditional system by alien forces.
Dr. K. O. Ayenibiowo of the Department of Psychology of the University of Lagos discussed the Socio-Cultural Factors Determining the Instability of Marriage and Family in Nigeria. The most important factor she identified was the way children are socialized in preparation for adult life. While the children are exposed to unbridled media influences, changes in occupational patterns and lifestyles have rendered parents less available to inculcate time-honored values to their children. Varying levels of people’s attachment to traditional views of gender roles and expectations vis-a-vis the liberal-western view, age at the time of marriage, economic challenges, living environment, and the extended family system are some of the other socio-cultural factors she identified.
Prof. (Mrs.) Mopelola Omoegun, Counseling Psychologist, Institute of Education of the University of Lagos, discussed Marriage and Family and the Millennium Development Goals: A Re-evaluation. She assessed Nigeria’s position on the attainment of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in quantitative terms, which showed that we are far from reaching them by 2015. There is much prospect in realizing the MDGs faster by focusing on the family, since the MDGs have much to do with the family, she concluded.
The discussions continued the following day, first with a presentation on Trends in Marriage and Family in 21st Century Nigeria by Dr. Chinwe R. Nwanna of the Department of Sociology of the University of Lagos. The trends she identified, supported with empirical data, are follows: Polygyny was common until recently. Western education is eroding the practice of polygyny. Cohabitation is on the increase. There is a shift from the extended family to nuclear family. The rate of family breakdown is higher. There is a reduction in family size. Intergenerational relations have changed such that the younger generation is more dependent on the older generation due to unemployment and the growing number of HIV/AIDS orphans. Unwed childbirth and single parenthood is on the rise. Also on the increase is the phenomenon of ‘living apart together’ for occupational reasons. Addressing these issues requires deliberate policies by government, she concluded.
Rev. Dr. Agatha Chukwura, President of Gold Crest Family Care Center in Lagos, discussed Marriage and Family in a Challenging Economy: Pitfalls and Prospects. In a difficult economy, values are easily transferred from human beings to money; money is to be gained by all means. Husbands and wives lose their positions, and unhealthy rivalry may arise between them. Parents may not be there for their children because they are out hustling just for survival. On the other hand, it is possible that under such economic difficulties, couples may develop virtues such as patience, knowledge, temperance, godliness, kindness, and genuine love which form the foundation for a stable society and an improvement in external living conditions.
Dr. George C. Ikpot, UPF-Nigeria Trustee, made a presentation on the “Four Great Realms of Heart and Three Great Kingships,” which is the UPF Founder’s model of a God-centered family as a school of love. In this model, the ideal family is an environment for the perfection of children’s love and filial piety towards their parents; perfection of sibling love among brothers and sisters; perfection of conjugal love between husband and wife, and perfection of parental love towards children. It is also an environment for the harmonious sharing of love between the three generations – grandparents, parents, and children.
The final presentation was made by Rev. George M. Ogurie, a UPF-Nigeria Trustee. This was an introduction to the Interfaith World Peace Blessing Celebration. This he said is the Founders’ most important legacy and gift to humanity. A ceremony of this nature is a powerful means of driving home all the lessons learned on marriage and family as well as sending a message to the world on the important place of marriage and family. It is rich in symbolic meanings as a clean-up process of historical and contemporary maladies. He gave a slide presentation of an Interfaith Marriage Blessing event held earlier in the year in the Philippines and suggested that in the next conference, which will be held in Port Harcourt July 26 -28, and all subsequent ones, a Blessing celebration should be a part of the program.
At the end of discussions, two committees were set up among participants: the Editorial Committee whose task is to go through the papers presented and draw out the salient matters into a single document; an advocacy committee that will represent the zone on a national advocacy group that will seek to get the overall outcomes of the conferences implemented by concerned authorities.
The conference ended with the presentation of Ambassador for Peace certificates to some of those who contributed to the success of the conference.
There were about 70 participants, and the general feeling was that of deep joy and satisfaction that such a conference is being done at this time. Both days of the conference were covered by Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) News.
Prince Andy Ezenwa: I am particularly impressed with the Founder’s Speech. It was as though the whole of scripture has been condensed into a single piece. It is a wonderful speech. I would like to read it over and over every day from today.
Pastor C. B. Solomon: I was very moved by the Founder’s speech and the concept of the Four Great Realms of Heart. The position of Ambassadors is important, as peace must begin in our own families. Therefore we must be the first to imbibe these principles.
Imam Kamildeen Najeemdeen: The Founder’s vision for the family is very profound. I am grateful to have been invited for this conference. I thank the organizers for their efforts and look forward to participating in future conferences of this nature.
Rev. Dr. Agatha Chukwura: I feel honored to be invited to make a presentation at this conference. I sincerely appreciate the Lagos State chapter of UPF for the privilege. I thank especially Rev. Imo Nkanta, the Lagos State Chapter Coordinator, for inviting me. I have an organization that deals with family issues at the grassroots. I would like to jointly organize family educational programs in my area together with UPF.
Dr. Paul Akintelure: I thank the organizers of this conference for choosing such a timely theme. I can see the way in which the challenges that we face in this country revolve around the problem of marriage and family. I can see that my being appointed today as an Ambassador for Peace is a commission to serve humanity in a real sense.
Kudos to Rev. Imo Nkanta, the overall coordinator of the conference, Alhaji Lateef Soyemi, who served as the MC, and other officials of the Lagos State Chapter for hosting this conference. The national headquarters was represented by Rev. Ogurie, Dr. Ikpot, and Mr. Una B. Smart, under the leadership of the National Secretary General, Mr. Olaleye Alao.
Report submitted by George M. Ogurie