With the recent conclusion of the World Congress of Families VII in Sydney, Australia, the international pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-family movement is coming of age as an international counterweight to the family-hostile United Nations. With a goal of "shifting key debates worldwide regarding the natural family," the Sydney Congress brought together activists, scholars, politicians, heads of nongovernment organizations and numerous other opinion leaders who showed a new zeal in transforming the anti-mother, anti-child and anti-family cultures that have proliferated across the world over the past few decades. Participants found that all are facing similar challenges and found encouragement in learning what colleagues from other nations are doing to preserve and strengthen the natural family.
Cutting-edge documentaries, new movie screenings, committed media personalities and high-profile international leaders are changing the dynamics of the World Congress of Families events. The defense of life, marriage and family is supported by a wider range of social science research from more countries, and young leaders are playing a high-profile role in supporting the World Congress' mission.
The Sydney event was a watershed that marked Russia's movement into a leading role in promoting pro-family concerns. The World Congress of Families will be hosted at the Kremlin in 2014. The involvement of strong leaders from Russia was a dream that seemed against all odds in the late 1990s when the movement was launched. It is a measure of the indispensable nature of the natural family and its universal relevance to all nations.
Participants at the Sydney congress were reminded that throughout history and across all cultures, marriage has been the foundation of families and the bedrock of civilized nations. Married moms and dads having babies and raising the next generation of children have been so much the norm of personal experience in every nation that now with birthrates sinking below replacement levels, it is hard to imagine the long-term impact of their absence. The result is there for all to see — at least on TV — in areas where married-couple families are already too scarce to provide the necessary critical mass for a healthy environment. Without strong families to exert moral authority, neighborhoods echo scenes from the classic 1991 movie "Boyz N The Hood" that take the viewer inside the gang-infested communities of South Central Los Angeles, where marauding gangs, constantly at war with each other, illustrated what happens when there are not enough strong fathers to control and civilize the young males.
Most of our countries are struggling to find an answer to the significant demographic divides related to family breakdown and the lack of marriage. The huge education, economic, racial and geographical divides are heavily documented by researchers, and those divides raise important questions. Will the growth in no-strings-attached cohabitation among the poorly educated population make the concept of marriage and family as a sacrament extinct among them? Will it be replaced among the highly educated population by a nonbinding contract that can be broken at will?
For decades, liberals, progressives, feminists and welfare advocates have tried to find solutions to the problems associated with out-of-wedlock childbearing, single motherhood and child poverty — without advocating marriage in public policy. Their solutions? Taxpayer-funded contraceptives, abortions and expanding government welfare. We don't need to ask how that has worked out. The answer is obvious. The decline of marriage, including no-fault divorce and the sexual revolution, is a luxury popularized by celebrities but it is a dead-end trap for the poor that exacts a price from their children.
Kids that come from healthy marriages are vital to the future of society, but the contributions of good marriages do not end there. By building strong, healthy families, married couples create virtue. In some immeasurable way, the goodness they create — simply by living according to the natural order and moral law designed by the Creator — is of benefit not just for the couple, but their success also contributes vitality to the whole. Anytime a marriage nurtures, shelters and protects, it becomes a stage for all to see where scenes of love and joyful celebration are played out again and again. Equally important, both communities and nations also benefit.
Despite the unrelenting assaults on marriage and family of the postmodern era, the natural family's capacity to meet our human needs and longings is cause to hope for a brighter future than the dark one portended by the present birth dearth affecting most technologically advanced nations. The World Congress of Families is playing a pivotal role in transforming cultures by spreading a pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-family message through their international conferences.
Janice Shaw Crouse is director and senior fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute.