UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation
International Symposium 2016-2017
Family and Nation Building
St. Andrew’s College, Bandra
Concept Note: The family is the bedrock of our society. Strong families build strong communities which in turn can build a strong nation. It is in the family that our young people first learn moral and spiritual values which give meaning to their lives. Blessed John Paul II reminded us years ago that: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” He referred to the family as “a society in its own original right”, and the “first and vital cell of society.”
At the beginning of June, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a speech in Milan when he opened the 7th World Meeting of Families. Inter alia, he said that the family is humanity’s “principal asset.” He highlighted the importance of faith and the family in today’s society; “the importance of legislation and the work of state institutions being ordered to the service and protection of the person in his various aspects, beginning with the right to life, the deliberate suppression of which can never be allowed, and the acknowledgement of the proper identity of the family, founded on marriage between one man and one woman.” He called for a defense of family time. He said we should make time for God, work and for family. He appealed for Church communities that are more and more family oriented.
Families and their ‘practices’ (what goes on inside them) are highly significant to local, national and supranational governments because, however constituted, they are the micro ecology in which emotional and material needs are met for the majority of people. Families are essential for social cohesion, the socialisation of children and individual well-being; they are the base from which children and adults can learn, work, and contribute to society. They play an indispensable role in care, particularly for vulnerable members of society, such as the disabled and elderly. Governments therefore have a vital interest in the welfare and practices of families under their purview and are concerned with how they are structured. For example, a consultation paper from the UK Government in 2010 states that ‘Strong families give children love, identity, a personal history and a secure base from which to explore and enjoy life as they grow up. Strong families also help build strong communities, so they are crucial for a successful society’. Research justifies treating families as both problem and solution to a range of social ills. For example, children being raised in dysfunctional family settings are at greater risk of engaging in criminal activity during adolescence and later in life, while a supportive family acts as a protective factor against such an outcome. Widespread family breakdown is symptomatic, or even to a certain extent causal, of wider social breakdown, given its association with a wide range of social problems, whereas supportive families are the bedrock and foundation of a cohesive society. Some level of government intervention is justifiable and necessary if only to create the conditions in which strong families can flourish.
The International Symposium was held on 11th February, a platform for discussing modern day issues with religious significance. The topic for the year was “Family and Nation Building”. The chief guest was Archbishop Felix Machado, Bishop of Vasai, who delivered the presidential address. The guest of honour was Dr. Maria Luisa Rossi, Secretary to Consul General of Italy in Mumbai, who delivered his Excellency Ugo Ciarlatani’s message, and the keynote speaker was Dr. Rev. Fr. Rudolf C. Heredia, Founder of the Social Science Center at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Other dignitaries included, Fr. Cajetan D Menezes, Director of the Family Service Center Snehalaya, Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, Director of Tissue Bank at Tata Memorial Hospital, Kapil Devdas, Vice President of ISKON Juhu, Mr. Irfan Engineer, Director of Center for Study of Society and Secularism Mumbai, who voiced their opinions and perspectives on the topic. Siddhanth Sinha (T.Y.B.Com) and Kelly Waller (T.Y.B.A) also participated in the panel discussion. The yearly journal was also released during the session entitled “Ethics and Society: An International Journal Religious and Cultures for Peace and Harmony” – Volume 5.