From September 10–12, Moscow hosted the Large Families and the Future of Humanity Forum, which brought together over 1,000 people from every Russian region and 45 countries around the globe. The Forum participants received greetings from the Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as from: Valentina Matviyenko, Chairman of the Federation Council; Sergey Naryshkin, Chairman of the State Duma; Onuphrius, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine; and Svetlana Medvedeva, President of Socio-Cultural Initiatives Foundation.
All the speeches delivered at the forum covered one key topic – the preservation of traditional, multi-child families as the moral and spiritual cornerstone of society, the bearer of national identity, and the keeper of civilization.
In his speech, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill quoted a passage from the Bible, “It is not good that man should be alone”, thus reminding the attendees that it was God’s will to create the very first family, and he pointed out that happiness requires temperance (although everyone understands that this is the case when talking about, for example, health). He also added that such happiness is impossible to achieve in a consumer society in which it is every man for himself. To be truly happy, one must start a family. Especially a large family. These parents are always making sacrifices for their children’s sake. Love, self-denial, and devotion, which are displayed in the family, become an integral part of a young person’s world view and fuse themselves with his or her character. And today, families need to be protected for the greater good of future generations. Culture, legislature, and education must not give in to anti-family forces.
The crisis of the family around the world was the subject of a speech by Natalia Yakunina, Vice President of the Center of National Glory and the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called, the two organizations that sponsored the Forum. Yes, what we have is a crisis. We are seeing more and more single-parent families. And there is an emerging practice of same-sex couples adopting children. More couples are choosing to have few children or none at all. Unbiased demographic research does not indicate the fabled overpopulation that the opponents of traditional family relationships keep lecturing about; on the contrary, it reveals that entire nations and peoples are dying out. How do we tackle this crisis? By utilizing all the resources the state provides for family support. Not only when the child is born, but during the entire upbringing as well. The education institutions, both high schools and universities, should also help promote family values. For this purpose, they must have our culture’s educational potential at their disposal. A law stating that human life starts at the moment of conception should be enacted.
Yelena Mizulina, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women’s and Children’s Issues, noted in her address that the Russian Government had approved the Concept of a State Family Policy this August. It was us Russians that developed this strategy, she added to applause from the audience.
Are legislators keeping up with the times? And what surprises await us as we interpret the challenges faced by the traditional family today? Those were the questions raised by Vladimir Yakunin, the Founding President of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Center of National Glory and the St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation. Why doesn’t our Constitution define such concepts as marriage and family? Because in 1993, when the Constitution was being written, it did not even occur to our legislators that these concepts could be interpreted in any way other than how we traditionally view them.
Aymeric Chauprade (France), member of the European Parliament, said that Europe is currently at war. This is a war waged between two worlds – a savage world of abortions, surrogacy, same-sex marriages, and child abuse, and a spiritual world that supports traditional values. It would seem that this has led to the Western world turning against Russia. But we are fighting for traditional values. And hope is what keeps us going. We have this hope thanks to Putin. There is a large group of members of the European Parliament, myself included, who want to work with the Russian deputies in this area.
Konstantin Malofeev, Chairman of the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, invited the Forum participants to compare the typical Russian family before and after the tragic events of 1917. The birth rate before the revolution was seven children per woman, and if this level had been maintained there would be over half a billion people living in Russia now instead of the mere 147 million, according to the calculations of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev. Why did we have such a high birth rate? Because Russia was an Orthodox nation. In 1920, the Bolsheviks legalized abortions and destroyed 85 percent of the clergy… But over the past 25 years, approximately 25,000 churches and 800 monasteries have been rebuilt in modern Russia. We would like to see such a miracle happen in Europe. Apparently, our Ukrainian brothers were not aware of the fact that as soon as they sign the association agreement with Europe, they will have to support gay pride parades and same-sex marriages, which are alien to a country with such deeply-rooted Orthodox traditions.
For Gergely Prohle, who represented Hungary, there is more to the situation than for the previous speaker. The Hungarian government does a lot in terms of public policy to support the traditional family, including financial support and laws protecting a fetus’s right to live from the moment of conception. There is also a draft of a law on protecting the family, but… while the birth rate and the number of marriages in the country have increased a little, the number of abortions and divorces have increased to a far greater extent. “We are happy to attend the Forum and would like to work together to resolve urgent issues,” said Prohle.
The speech by Talgat Tadzhuddin, the Chief Mufti of Russia, is a proof that traditional Islam, with its emphasis on family values, has always felt welcome in Russia. During a meeting in Ufa, President Putin said that we should strengthen traditional Islam, as opposed to radical Islam, and integrate Islam into our society. The Chief Mufti was very understanding of the issue raised by the Hungarian speaker. He drew attention to an important lesson taught by our entire history: secular methods have proven themselves ineffective when solving the problem of abortions, low birth rates, and other challenges faced by the modern family, as secular ideology completely lacks the concept of sin. Among other things, Talgat Tadzhuddin also stated that, as a father of five, he fails to understand why we don’t offer financial support for paternity as we do with maternity.
God demands that we have children. Every child is the key to a healthy family and consequently, to a healthy society. Bringing up a child is no easy task, but you can only do it right in a family with many children, where this task is repeated over and over again – such is the point of view of Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, who also expressed his firm belief that state support should be moral as well as financial. For instance, the government has stopped awarding the Mother Heroine title for some reason…
The speech given by Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, covered the topic of a “quiet conspiracy among doctors”. As part of this “conspiracy”, doctors at both private and public clinics and health centers first offer women an abortion and only then remember that they are obstetricians. The Metropolitan said, “Doctor Leonid Roshal, who is a household name around our country, did not believe me when I told him about a friend of mine who received this offer in several Moscow clinics that she visited”. Metropolitan Hilarion never stops promoting the idea of abortion as murder (and these days, mass murder), especially among students, who honestly do not understand why the Church does not compromise on this issue. The Metropolitan has to reply, “Who would I be talking to now if your mother had not decided to keep you years ago?”
“In Nigeria, we clearly define marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” said Theresa Okafor, Director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage. “Same-sex marriage goes against our beliefs. We are certain that being raised by same-sex couples can be harmful to children. We also disapprove of surrogacy and abortions. But it is our firm belief that these issues should be not discussed in an atmosphere of confrontation and aggressive rhetoric, and that we should help one another in pursuing common goals. This is what we are doing here at the Forum in Moscow”.
This view was also shared by Anastasios Nerantzis, member of the Greek Parliament and Secretary General of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy. Our Forum offers a platform where we can freely discuss different approaches to the same issues. The Nigerian representative added that while the union between a man and a woman is based on equality, a child is born because of the differences between men and women. This needs to be discussed. Just as we need to discuss large families opening the path to humankind’s salvation. It is wonderful that we are heard in other countries.
“Unfortunately, the Philippines, just like the rest of the world, are seeing a drop in the number of large families,” said Francisco Tatad, Special Counsel on International Relations to the Vice President of the Philippines and board member of the International Right to Life Federation. “However, the surge in the birth rate in post-war Bosnia goes to show that the birth rate does not depend directly on the quality of life. Quite to the contrary, the speculations on birth control are fueled by the selfishness of today’s consumer society. The fact that the Large Families and the Future of Humanity Forum is being held here, in Moscow, is a true revolution, a colossal leap forward for spirituality and morals in their struggle to protect the traditional family and traditional values. It is an honor for us to be part of this event,” said Tatad.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have many children, but when I moved in with my wife’s family, becoming a sort of adopted son – and there were four generations living side by side in her home – I realized how important it is to pass on traditions from generation to generation. Only when your children and grandchildren leave you and the cherished bustle in your house fades away do you begin to appreciate and miss this lovely music of family life. This music rang within my heart for many months during my space flight in orbit. And I am certain that we have not yet lost the war against inhumane forces, with their golden billions, the chosen oligarchs. If bringing back large families becomes the national purpose of Russia, this positive outlook will be just the thing to help us win. For the only place where man can find happiness in the boundless universe is his family”. With these words, Oleg Atkov, cardiologist, cosmonaut, and Secretary General of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”, concluded the plenary meeting.