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Can the Family be a Vehicle for Cultural Rapprochement between East and West?

Can the Family be a Vehicle for Cultural Rapprochement
between East and West?
Eurasia & Europe: Cooperating for a Culture of Peace & Human Development

Tuesday 3rd – Wednesday 4th December 2013

by Josef Gundacker, Family Forum Austria

First of all, I would like to say thank you for inviting me here to Paris, to this Leadership Conference. I am honoured to share a few of my thoughts on this important issue of the family. Through my work with the Family Forum and also being a partner in the Austrian Family Network, I feel that family is the key factor for human development to create a culture of peace. Having visited different countries in Europe and beyond, I learned that family is of great importance in the life of people in the East and in the West, and so, I maintain, that family is the primary vehicle of rapprochement.

Studies say, that societies, which emphasize family values and encourage strong family ties are healthier. There is a close connection between family ties and mental health. Furthermore, family is one of the most important socio economic institutions in society.  Even though, strong family ties may imply less market activities, the family members seem to be more satisfied and happy with their own lives.

We associate love, security and trust with family. However, many people experience distrust rather than trust, insecurity rather than security, abuse of love instead of love within the family. The ideal of the family is still deeply rooted in the minds of young people. The realization of a family is perceived as being more and more difficult.

Without a doubt, we can maintain, looking at the family relationships that the family is in crisis, in the West, as well as in the East. Looking at divorce rates, Russia has the highest number of divorces in 2012, followed by USA, South Korea and European countries (divorce as per 1,000 persons).

It appears that more and more couples are motivated by individualistic considerations, preferring to live together not in wed-lock “happily ever after,” but rather as partners, just for now. Many people consider: “If this partner does not fulfil my expectations and wishes, then I will need a new one!” We have hastily settled for less in the short term and count the resultant divorces, but who is asking, why marriages fail? So many marriages are not working, not because people married the wrong partner, no, too many marry for the wrong reasons and often the partners are immature and not willing to take responsibility for themselves and their families.

The family unit has become a changing concept. What it means to be a member of the family today varies greatly, making it extremely difficult to find a universally agreed and applied definition. As a certain journalist put it: “Everybody is talking about family values but it seems that nobody knows what they are talking about!”

Considering the great differences in understanding of what the ideal of family is and how it is to be defined and understood, HOW can the Family be a Vehicle for Cultural Rapprochement between East and West?

Western people believe that the individual is most important. Western culture is characterized by individual freedom, individual rights and equality, but those noble democratic values have often been twisted to serve self-centred interests of individuals at the expense of other individuals. Family relationships are just seen as a personal contract, rather than an unbreakable bond between the parents and the children.  The significance of parents for the development of the child is considered of less importance. So, western democracies have established more of a Peer-Culture.

In the East there is still the concept, that the individual is a part of, and therefore subject to the family. Respect for parents and elders is inherent in the family tradition, even though, Individualism with its negative consequences is taking more and more root in eastern societies.

For family to become the vehicle for rapprochement we have to acknowledge the value of family. The core human values, or in economic terminology the human capital is created and passed on in the family. Parents are the carrier and primary mediator of these values. Therefore, the value and importance of the parents for the development of children must be put back into the public consciousness.

The UPF and its founders Dr. Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon are contributing to this very important topic, by proposing a visionary understanding of the family. Family is not only the fundamental unit of society.

1.  Family is associated with the highest form of love, with life itself and with linage, the passing on of love and life. So family is the heart of culture!

The parent – child relationship is the core axis and the stability of a family depends on the quality of the relationships of the parents. Family is therefore the fundamental school for the individual to learn the basics of life – to grow in personality, to be responsible for oneself and others.

Seen from that perspective, family relationships fail, not because of lack of knowledge and skills, but because of the immaturity and the inability of adults, to build trusting and stable relationships

2.  Parents are the role model for the child, for good and for evil.

The parent-child relationship is vital for the development of a child, as documented by research. So a family can only develop, when the parents invest themselves to grow to full human maturity and develop their relationship. If the relationship falls apart, the family falls apart and declines.

3. Family is not only the problem – family is also the solution

Many people believe that their problems are a result of circumstances, lack of freedom and opportunities, lack of knowledge, and so on. However, our human problems are relationship problems. It is not enough to think only about our own happiness. We cannot really be happy, when our parents, brothers, sisters and friends are sad. Mistrust, envy and self-centeredness have divided the family. Therefore trust and a life, living for the sake of the other can bring the family together again.

Sustainable solutions can only be found if we understand the basic human problems, the dynamics of our relationships and the dynamics of love. If we want to have peace, we have to be peaceful. If we want to have human development we have to invest again and again in the relationship between parents and children between countries, between cultures, between East and West. Peace and human development starts in the family.

Because family has a universal meaning, I maintain again, that family is the primary vehicle for cultural rapprochement. The UPF therefore encourages intercultural marriages to foster intercultural understanding and prosperity. These intercultural and international marriages are a very practical way to facilitate rapprochement between East and West.

To conclude, I want to share a small experience myself. What I’ve learned in my own family is that family relationships won’t function simply by business principles. I confess that I often had to change my own concepts and thoughts about my wife and children of family.  A family doesn´t thrive on management principles but on the Logic of Love.

Thank you for your attention!