Delegates to the fifth World Congress of Families concluded their gathering this past week with the release of a declaration affirming that "the future of nations rests on families that are spiritually grounded."
"Representing families and organizations from over 60 nations, we delegates ... affirm Article 16, par. 3, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, agreeing that 'the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, and is entitled to protection by society and the State,'" stated the "Amsterdam Declaration" that was adopted following the conclusion of the WCF's Aug. 10-12 gathering in the Netherlands.
"Religious organizations should be free to uphold their own moral teachings about marriage and family in the public square," it added. "We affirm that the natural family exists prior to the state. Public policies must respect this family autonomy."
For three days, around 1,000 leaders, activists, scholars and legislators gathered to discuss issues related to family life, including abortion, marriage, declining birth rates, child-care vs. home care, education (including home-schooling), pornography and the exploitation of women and children.
Critics of WCF V have accused the event of being organized by fundamentalist Christians who are "anti-feminist, anti-choice, homophobic and against divorce."
Participants and speakers of the event, however, were touted as having come from diverse religious backgrounds including from Judaism, Islam as well as secularism.
"Clearly, the social left is terrified of the Congress bringing a pro-family message to what it considers its turf," commented Larry Jacobs, managing director of the WCF.
In the "Amsterdam Declaration," WCF delegates specifically called for sound laws and policies that will support the natural institution of marriage; discourage divorce, especially when children would be involved; encourage couples that commit themselves to the rearing of children; protect the primary right of parents to guide their children's moral and practical education; protect the physical, mental, social and spiritual development of children; and guard vulnerable human life, especially at the beginning and end of the life cycle.
The congress delegates, hailing from over 60 nations, also gave special attention to poverty, declining birthrates, and the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
"We respond to the HIV and AIDS pandemic with a program of abstinence, faithfulness and character building through life skills education. We believe that this approach will inspire and reinforce family life in societies, break the cycle of infection, and best serve the interests of children," they stated in the declaration.
Founded in 1997, the World Congress of Families is a project of The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, an organization that claims not to be affiliated with any particular religion, organization, or political group, but explicitly states that "the natural human family is established by the Creator and essential to good society."
Past Congresses were held in Prague, Czech Republic (1997); Geneva, Switzerland (1999); Mexico City, Mexico (2004); and Warsaw, Poland (2007).