Promoting Good Parenting
For the Good of Society
On June 10, together with the Permanent Missions of Djibouti and Belarus and the Universal Peace Federation, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN co-sponsored a side event entitled "Good Parenting Builds Society: The Importance of Motherhood and Fatherhood" to honor the Global Day of Parents.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Mohamed Siad Doualeh, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Djibouti to the UN, pointed out that the family is the natural unit of society and plays an important role in the eradication of poverty, in the building of intergenerational solidarity and in the reduction of inequalities. He mentioned that every society requires families composed of a mother, father, and children and that good parenting is fundamental to boost a child’s confidence and openness to others.
Ambassador Valentin Rybakov of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus to the UN noted that observing the Global Day of Parents, normally celebrated on June 1, is a crucial reminder of the importance of roles of mothers and fathers. Protecting and supporting motherhood is a priority for Belarus, a country that is part of the Group of Friends of the Family, he said. He closed his intervention by reiterating that the family is the most important element for thriving society and for creating a better future.
Speaking on behalf of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN, Monsignor Tomasz Grysa stated that the family is not only essential for healthy children, but also for healthy societies.
“Growing up in a family with a mother and a father helps children achieve emotional maturity and learn how to recognize the beauty of the two sexes,” he said.
Some segments of our society, he said, “cannot adequately comprehend the real meaning of the gift of persons in marriage, responsible love at the service of fatherhood and motherhood, and the true grandeur of procreation and education.”
He also noted that parents have rights as the primary educators of their children and have the “grave duty to take responsibility for the well-rounded personal and social education of their children.” The loving relationship between parents and children is irreplaceable and “therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others."
Children also have “the right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's full and harmonious development and emotional maturity."
Providing sexual education, he added, is likewise primarily the role of the parents, as children are faced "with a culture that, all too often, reduces the human sexuality to the level of entertainment.” He urged parents to "aim firmly at a training in the area of sex that is truly and fully personal: for sexuality is an enrichment of the whole person - body, emotions, and soul - and it manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love."
There is an "urgent need,” he concluded, to promote a new alliance between parents, schools and society that can offer a positive education and that"respects the primary responsibility of parents in cooperation with the educational work of teachers."
The panel of experts included Erica Komisar, a licensed social work, a parenting coach, psychoanalyst, and author of Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. She spoke about the scientific and neurological evidence that highlights the damaging consequences for children who experience a difficult family life. Among American children today, there are more cases of mental disorders due to parents' absence during a child’s first three years of life than ever before.
Ms. Komisar’s research showed that the reassuring and nurturing presence of a mother is essential for "buffering young children from feelings of stress and to ensure their natural development. Children who have a mother present in their lives, particularly in the first three years, develop secure attachment relationships, whereas those that are separated from their mothers at an early age often experience stress and emotional difficulties particularly with attachment."
The role of fathers is equally crucial in the lives of their children in providing secure places for them to develop mentally and emotionally, she said.
Komisar presented evidence from US social studies that indicated 1 in 5 children living in the US today have been diagnosed with a mental or emotional disorder, that there is a 400 percent increase in children taking anti-depressants and a 119 percent increase in eating disorders for children under 12.
While it may not always be possible for women to be present to their children in early childhood, she encouraged the young women in the audience hoping to balance career and family, saying that life has seasons and that women should not feel under pressure to choose family or work. “Work will always be there, but children will not.
Grace Melton of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation spoke about some of the benefits of marriage for both children and society. "Children deserve both a mother and a father. Men and women are equal in dignity and worth, but they are not the same," she said.
As married parents are important for children, the institution of marriage is important for society.
"Strong families are the best resource every society has for caring for and raising children into healthy and responsible adults". Marriage, Ms. Melton said, encourages men and women to “commit permanently and exclusively to each other and to take responsibility for their children," creating a more harmonious society.
Melton shared the findings of prominent social scientists in the U.S. and from national surveys and stated that all available data indicate that children who live in a stable family home with married mothers and fathers have better physical, emotional and mental health.
“It is easy to see the social and economic cost that communities shoulder as a result of family breakdown," Melton said: 77.9 percent of children suffering in long term poverty come from broken or never-married families, while children living in a family with a mother and a father are 82 percent less likely to live in poverty,
The data also demonstrate a correlation between family life and violence, with "women and children less likely to experience domestic violence in intact married families than in other family norms."
Melton expressed her hope that the UN and the European Court of Human Rights seek to protect children and families: "By safeguarding and harnessing the many social benefits that the family bestows, we will facilitate achievement of the UN's [sustainable development goals], and leave a better world for our children."
Jonathan Schweppe, Director of Policy and Government at the American Principles Project, described the family as “the most important natural institution in the history of the world,” but noted that the family has now arrived at a state of crisis thanks to the loss of fathers in the home. Children are paying the price for this social failure with one in four or 19.7 million American children living at home without a father, he said. These children face incredible obstacles and are more at risk for destructive behaviors.
With women often left to raise children on their own and parenthood clearly in crisis, the US should stop incentivizing family breakouts he said. Maternity and paternity leaves should be made an affordable option.
“We must do better, and I'm certain we can," he said.
Following the presentation of the expert panel, the floor was opened for questions and comments. The delegate from Russia noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the family as the natural unit of society and called upon UN agencies and States to harness the potential of the family for development and harmony in society. A delegate from Comoros said that it is crucial to help young people recognize the importance of family.
To watch the event in its entirety click here.
Educating to Fraternal Humanism to Build a Civilization of Love:
A Global Catholic Schools Congress Concludes at UN
A gathering of more than Catholic 600 educators from all corners of the globe came together for the Concluding Congress of the Catholic Schools of the World Congress at the United Nations on Sunday last, June 9.
Sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in conjunction with Fordham University and the Catholic International Education Office (OIEC), those gathered heard 15 speakers who addressed the challenges and benefits of Catholic education particularly with regard to Goal Four of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
After welcoming those gathered, Archbishop Auza recalled the five papal visits to the United Nations and particularly the visit of Pope Paul VI who said two things pertaining to Catholic education. First, that the United Nations is a school of peace in which delegates are first students and then are sent forth as teachers. Second, that the UN is a reflection in the temporal field of what the Catholic Church is in the spiritual field, catholic, universal, seeking to serve people everywhere. He called upon Catholic schools to be salt, light and leaven.
In a special pre-recorded message for the Catholic educators’ present. Pope Francis spoke of the importance of Catholic education and highlighted some of the challenges it is currently facing, as well as ways to address these challenges.
Pope Francis referenced the Second Vatican Council's statement that "men and women of every race, condition, and age, thanks to their dignity as a person, have the inalienable right to education.” He stressed that youth need to be equipped with the necessary means to contribute to the common good and participate in society.
He spoke at length on the need to revive an authentic humanism in education and warned that one of the greatest difficulties facing education is the current, deconstructed version of humanism. This is in part due to consumerism that overwhelms common values and treats human beings as mere machines or economic instruments. Such consumerism also leads to the "dictatorship of results."
While drawing attention to the pervading culture of indifference that is leading to a corrosion of humanism, Pope Francis said that true humanism should place the human person at the core of education and promote a proper ecological outlook. He underlined that Catholic education must also reach out to those on the peripheries.
Quentin Wodon, Chief Economist in the Department of Education at the World Bank, shared some statistics about Catholic education in the world today. Many countries in Africa are experiencing high growth rates in enrollments, he said, as half of all children who attend Catholic schools live in Africa.
One of the greatest contributions of Catholic schools lies in its teachers and in how they are formed, he said. He noted the positive way that teachers in Catholic schools treat the children in their care and what that does for the society in which they live.
Raoul Sika from the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education in the Congo shared a video from his school tree planting ceremony, where each tree carries the name of a child. His school students are taught respect for their environment, based on the idea of taking care of God’s creation. All students at this school are trained in essential skills so that they will have a responsible attitude to protecting the earth. The students are in turn encouraged to be ecological missionaries to their families and their villages so that together they can protect and preserve the environment.
Brother Habib Zraibi, a De La Salle Brother, described the initiative of his order, in conjunction with the Marist brothers, to educate child refugees in Lebanon. Named the Fratelli Project, this initiative seeks to help the refugees in Lebanon. He said that the Lebanese school system and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) cannot serve all the children who need schooling. These religious orders operate two centers in Lebanon, one in Rmeileh and one in Bourj Hammoud. They serve roughly 1,000 children from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon. Br. Zraibi related that, initially, Lebanese people expressed resistance towards welcoming Syrian refugees, as Lebanon had suffered from the Syrian occupation of its country. They were tempted to ignore these refugees, saying "they deserve to suffer," but their Christian belief in charity and forgiveness enabled them to view children as victims needing assistance. The centers provide a variety of activities – sports, tutoring, accelerated learning, summer school for mothers, and English classes. Br. Zraibi said that the brothers will continue to help as long as there are children in need.
Danielle Radenen from Marseilles, France, address the congress and spoke about the role of schools in promoting a culture of dialogue. Teachers, she said, to adapt to the individual needs of students, often because students at her school come from varied backgrounds. Despite the differences between students and the difficulties they face, Radenen shared how all students are united in the respect they show towards staff, facilities, and each other. She mentioned that 80 percent of the population at her school was Muslim, which afforded many opportunities for interreligious dialogue.
Jaime Palacio, a lay missionary in Yurimaguas, Peru, addressed the work of Catholic education in the Amazon. He said that Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si', proposed an ecology that is important not just for the Amazon but for the whole world. The Amazon Church has the task of having a Church with an Amazonian face and stressed the importance of making the people of the region feel included by listening to their needs. He said it is important to reread the Gospels with the perspective of Amazon culture and spirituality. He echoed Pope Francis' remarks on the deconstruction of humanism and summed up the mission of the Synod as the defense of life, the earth, and cultures.
Jose Arellano spoke about the situation of education on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, where Catholics are in the majority, but there is a significant Muslim population. He explained that historic injustices drive many of these Muslims to join violent extremist groups, with devastating consequences for their communities and for the Philippines. His organization, the Madaris Volunteer Program, tries to assist the Muslim population in the newly autonomous region of Bangsamoro and to prevent its youth from developing violent extremist views. He explained that the region suffers from a low quality of basic education, as well as interreligious misunderstandings and conflicts that contribute to the possibility of extremism. The Madaris Volunteer Program sends volunteers to teach and assist with interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
Kiran Bir Sethi, Founder of Design for Change in India and Brother Juan Antonio Ojeda Ortiz, FSC, Project Manager for I Can! in Spain, spoke together about their hopes for Catholic education. Bir Sethi quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who said that “the law of Love could be best understood and learned through little children."
In this context, she pointed out that children show their capabilities in their first two years of life, but adults surrounding them often hinder their realization because of factors such as unrealistic expectations.
She highlighted that education should be framed in a methodology where children are not helpless but can unleash their potential. The approach that she proposed is based on "FIDS", meaning "Feel,” “Imagine,” “Do," and “Share."
She described the commitment of children to take care of a disabled child, underlining that love and respect makes a difference in someone's life. Bir Sethi also spoke about the project “I Can!" that will be presented in Rome. She is particularly inspired by the words of Pope Francis on the need of being seeds of change for the society, not just observers.
Br. Ojeda presented a book on humanity and sustainable education, stressing the importance of responding both to the cry of the poor and the earth, and giving solutions to the problems that have been spelled out by the UN through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He also noted the role of Catholic schools to provide comprehensive education, based on Gospel values and critical thinking. He mentioned the project "I Can!," that has been promoted by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, and supported by OIEC, as well as the Union of Headmasters and Headmistresses.
Msgr. Paolo Rudelli, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe, addressed the notion that there are three basic languages: that of the head, heart, and hands. Only by taking into full consideration the development of the entire person can humanity flourish, he said.
He also underlined the notion of fraternity. Authentic human development is fraternal and no one should be left behind. Such a notion is not inconsistent with the deepest aspirations of the international community, as alluded to in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Catholic education is open to the universality of knowledge, the full development of each person, and open to dialogue with different religions and traditions. He asserted that a turn to Catholic education will embrace one's full humanity and lead one to defend the rights of all.
Dr. Philippe Richard, Secretary-General of the OIEC, noted that the conference was focused on a new dialogue to promote the future of the planet, in accordance with Laudato Si'. Catholic schools must promote sustainable development, peace, human rights, and a culture of dialogue between students of different religions and noted that the Christian identity of schools must be founded in its religious roots, where the goal is not to earn money, but to serve.
Dr. Richard emphasized that Catholic schools must be open to all, especially those on the peripheries and must, therefore, adapt their own structure and education to the needs of young people on the peripheries. To this end, they must train teachers to fight academic failure, illiteracy, and violence. Quality education must be inspired by the Gospel and address climatic and economic problems. He closed by acknowledging the need to protect children against all forms of abuse.
Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education in the Vatican, noted that this conference recalls Populorum Progressio, the 1967 encyclical by Pope Saint Paul VI, who encouraged the faithful to take the path of dialogue, subsidiarity, reconciliation, peace, and human development. Zani affirmed that a lack of education is an injustice, and at the basis of injustice is a lack of humanity. He encouraged all to think openly and to support children's mental formation – so that they may think freely and creatively, fully grounded. Children will thereby stay rooted in reality, which is a higher, richer plane than that of indoctrination or ideology.
He also said that a full understanding of the human being is necessary for effective education. We must reject a materialist reduction of humanity. The Church, through education, has a responsibility and opportunity to promote a new paradigm regarding the human being and society, opening hearts where there is despair, and fostering community. Zani concluded by thanking the conference attendees and organizers for their work in this regard.
The choir of Moore Catholic High School from Staten Island, New York, sang two choral numbers during the Conference, including one to conclude the day.
To watch the Holy Father's address click here.
To watch the entire conference, click here