Marriage and Family


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Marriage and Family

Madrid Marriage & Family Forum: Strengthening Marriage and Family in Spain


Madrid, Spain - The family is the school of love and peace, according to Armando Lozano, Secretary General of UPF-Spain. “With good role models, people can become better parents and grandparents,” he said. “Children can grow up to be responsible and peaceful citizens when in their homes they learn the virtues of love, peaceful persuasion, harmony, cooperation, and altruism.”

Inspired by this vision, UPF-Spain hosted a seminar on January 31, 2009 at the Peace Embassy in Madrid about how families and society as a whole transmit values to the younger generation.

Our keynote speaker was Dr. José Manuel López Molina, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Madrid. “The best thing that we can offer to young people are ideals, communicated not only by words but by our example,” he said. “Our daily good manners, actions, and good accomplishments should be their reference points for growth and development.”

Music and dances from a variety of cultural traditions, awards to outstanding couples, and a presentation from UPF’s principles of peace inspired the audience. This launched a series of monthly seminars throughout the year on themes such as choosing a marriage partner, the engagement period, building the marriage bond, and developing a parental heart. The topic that seemed to generate the most interest was respect, especially for one’s elders. People are concerned by the loss of respect, among young people, and the resulting problems.

Noted family educators spoke at the seminars. For example, a priest and psychologist from the Dominican Order, Dr. Niceto Blázquez, emphasized the vital contribution that having a mature character brings to all relationships. A missionary and educator from the Idente Order, Sister Dr. María Fernanda Lacilla Ramas, spoke about the need to cultivate spiritual and emotional maturity.

"Our capacity to love is a measure of our spiritual maturity, particularly to express unconditional love," explained Mr. Edward Hartley, head of UPF’s Marriage and Family Initiative in the UK that sparked the idea of these seminars in Spain. A featured speaker at the June seminar, he encouraged his audience to do whatever they could to encourage marriage rather than casual relationships, prepare people for marriage, and promote opportunities for marriage enrichment.

Sociological data show that married people are healthier, wealthier, live longer, are safer to be with, experience more well-being, and are more altruistic than their non-married counterparts. Stable relationships provide the environment to learn about love through parent-child bonds, sibling bonds, and marriage bonds.

Many of the seminars featured women who have dedicated their lives to strengthening family values in Spain. These included Mrs. Pilar Gutiérrez, president of United for Life; Mrs. Maria Claudia Cevallos Ugarte, a professor of political science; Mrs. Gloria Juste, President of the Women, Work, and Family Foundation; and Mrs. Rosa María Jiménez, president of the Association for the Education and Formation of Personality and Human Relations.

Among the many outstanding couples recognized during the year were Mr. Juan de Dios Cuevas de la Paz and Mrs. Deutasia Sepúlveda de Cuevas from the Dominican Republic, now living in Madrid. Married for 56 years, they have 12 children, 46 grandchildren, and 14 great-grand children.

Mr. Manuel Campillo, a businessman and UPF family educator, described the secret of success in marriage not as marrying the “right person” but investing the “right heart and attitude” in the relationship and making the commitment to do what is right. He described the principles that guide a harmonious marriage as divine love, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, sacrifice, altruism, understanding, and respect.

The parents and grandparents in the audience were interested in being effective in these roles. One couple, Elisa and Ignacio, commented after the November seminar about the responsibilities of parents and children: "How important it is for getting along to be aware of our responsibility as active agents in all the spheres in which we move!"

Ambassadors for Peace from Caribbean and South American communities in Spain described the traditional values which they seek to pass on to their children and grandchildren in their adopted homeland. Mrs. Rosario Zanabria compared the family traditions of Peru and of Spain. Mrs. Violeta Cedano described how the people of the Dominican Republic help their relatives and neighbors. Valuable contributions were also made by Dr. María Claudia Cevallos Ugarte, an educator from Ecuador, and Mr. Juan Fernández of the Dominican Republic.

Seminars included a toast to marriage and family and prayers for peace for brothers and sisters in larger human family who live in trouble spots such as the Middle East and Mindanao, Philippines. Mrs. Cristina Villar, an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, gave background information about conflict in the family of Abraham and challenged people in the audience to serve as bridges among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Candles were lit and representatives of various faiths offered prayers from their tradition.

About 11 percent of Spain’s 46 million people are immigrants, mostly from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. They bring the traditions of their culture and extended families to Spain. Although Spanish society has become more secular, the influx of Latin American immigrants, who tend to be devout Catholics, has resulted in increased church attendance. Recent waves of immigration have also led to an increasing number of Muslims in Spain.

There is a resurgence of international interest in the “Convivencia,” the era from the 8th to the 15th centuries C.E. on the peninsula in which Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities lived together in relative harmony. UPF envisions the global culture moving towards the spirit of “one family under God,” as people of faith make common cause with each other based on principles common to the world’s great religions.

Spain’s extensive history with many cultural influences has resulted in a cuisine thousands of recipes and flavors. Refreshments at the seminars showcased this variety, with Spanish potato omelets and pizzas being especially popular.

When we started this series a year ago, we didn’t know what kind of response we would receive. We found that people were especially interested in practical guidance for relationships and resolving conflict. One person commented, “I love these seminars more and more, because of the quality of the lectures. I am also learning to be a better person through the prayers, and I am starting to think about the problems of other countries.”

For reports of monthly meetings of UPF-Spain's Marriage and Family Initiative, visit Spain's national chapter page.

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