Day of Families Observed in Vienna

Vienna, Austria - UPF-Austria hosted a forum on May 14 in honor of the International Day of Families. A variety of speakers addressed the topic of "Confronting Family Poverty and Social Exclusion." A buffet and concert by Slovakian musicians closed the event.

Six speakers were invited to speak on the topic of “Family.”

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The first, Mrs. Barbara Nanoff-Schediwy, who works as a mediator with international and intercultural couples, started her presentation with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “The most powerful weapon is dialogue!” In her short speech she explained how mediation can support people in rebuilding relationships. “Tips and Tricks for mediative behavior in everyday life” was the title of the handout she had prepared for the participants of the conference, a very helpful instruction which can easily be applied.

Dr. Michaela Moser, a Catholic theologian, philosopher, and expert on social affairs, spoke about her experiences working with charity organizations for over 30 years. “Even in the rich country of Austria there is poverty,” she stated, “but there is a way out!”

She summarized her suggestions in three points:

  1. to ensure a minimum income for people
  2. to keep developing the social infrastructure, such as schools and public transport
  3. to re-think the politics concerning work hours, employment, and unemployment

Mr. Markus Oirer introduced his book Tears Become Diamonds,” which is a testimony of how he overcame his difficult experience of having been misused in his childhood. His example gives hope to people who had to cope with similar difficulties in their lives. He pours all his energy in prevention work in order for young people to learn from his experiences.

In the coffee break after these first three presentations, people could come to know each other and exchange experiences, as most of the participants in the conference were involved in working for families in some way.

The next speaker was Dr. Karl Babiak-Nagy, a medical doctor certified in logotherapy, family adviser, and mediator. As a follower of Victor Frankl he applies the principles of logotherapy in caring for people: it is essential to find meaning and a purpose in life. “I am not the one, who is looking for answers, but life itself asks me questions, and I am the one who answers them!” His leading principle is: “Accept life, find your purpose!"

Mrs. Xiaoyan Wang, was the next speaker. Having studied medicine and literature in China, she also got a diploma in Chinese literature from the University of Vienna, where she has been living for the last 20 years. She began her presentation by explaining the meaning of the Chinese symbol for the family. The mainly western audience was surprised by the complexity of thoughts put into one word.

Mrs. Wang compared the traditional Confucian family which operated under many rules and regulations with the family of the early Communist times in China, when it was most important to marry into the right social class. The modern family of today’s China is much like a western family, except for two aspects which have not changed since the old times:

  1. the children are being educated strictly, and they are expected to do well at school,
  2. to be polite in any situation, at home as well as at the workplace or in any public place.

She also mentioned that for the Chinese men it is natural to share the household responsibilities: men are cooking and cleaning without long discussions about roles.

Last, but not least, Mrs. Elisabeth Cook of UPF-Austria, spoke about “The Family as the Foundation of a Culture of Peace.” She drew the attention of the listeners to the fact that there is not only financial or material poverty, but also “poverty of relationships,” meaning that 50 percent of all marriages break up, not to speak of the couples who do not marry legally. Instead of having a culture of families we created a culture of singles. She stated that the solution can be found in raising the value of family relationships by reflecting on the fact that man and woman, parents and children are the vessels through which a never-ending circle of love is formed that starts from our creator and continues to flow without end through the generations. So the family can be considered as the center of life, love, and hope for the future.

After another round of discussions a Slovakian Children’s dance group performed Slovakian folk dances, which were highly appreciated by the audience.

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