Excerpt of Intervention of Rev. Dr. Peniel Rajkumar, executive director, Interfaith Program, World Council of Churches, at the commemoration of the International Day of Families in Geneva, Switzerland, on 14 May 2019.
Let me begin by conveying peace and goodwill from the World Council of Churches and especially our General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, who unfortunately cannot be with us here today. As we commemorate the International Day of Families, it is appropriate that we connect the theme of peace and development with the issue of thriving families, using the bridge of interreligious cooperation. In the new world order, which testifies each day to the unprecedented urgency of peace, families, the basic unit in which social and spiritual values are shaped and formed, have an important role to play.
A reflection of the spirit of our times is that the notion of family is under flux. This flux is not only due to choice, but also due to extenuating circumstances, like conflicts. In such a context, faith communities cannot afford the inability to perceive relationships as they actually exist. In such a context, what the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said is relevant. He said, “Whatever the state may call the family may change with time, but we as believers need to at least take seriously the aspiration of some people to be something like the traditional family, to be a dependable, trustworthy and nourishing abode for a child. We can and should work with the grain of any form of the family that makes for stability, generosity, stability. We work with the grain of whatever holds people together.”
One of the important contributions that faith communities can make to promote peace at the familial level is through the formation of children, especially the faith formation of children. Faith formation is an integral part of our faith communities.
At the heart of interreligious cooperation for peace and development is [also] the challenge to empower our children to understand our interdependence as human beings, that we are who we are, not against but alongside our neighbours of other faiths, and families can help with this orientation. What I mean here is not a diluted version of the golden rule predicated by a calculated logic of reciprocity, in which we teach our children to do good to others because only then will others do good to us, but a deeper awareness of the intertwining of our lives as one family created to live together.
Faith formation from such an integrated perspective will then empower our children and our families to be artisans of peace who are not content with peace just for ourselves but for everyone, and this can help us move together as families, communities and also as a world toward a new future of hospitality and hope that peace and development can thrive.