Following up on the Vienna Round table, 17 politicians, experts, academics and NGO representatives from 5 nations gathered in Budapest on Monday 24, October 2016 for a Round table convened by Hon. Nina Nováková, member of the Czech Parliament and Mr. Jacques Marion, Secretary General of UPF Europe.
The first panel on “Current threats and controversies regarding the family in Europe” was moderated by Dr. Roman Joch, Director of the Civic Institute from the Czech Republic.
Mrs. Edit Frivaldszky, Director of the Human Dignity Center in Hungary, in charge of the “Mum, Dad and Kids” campaign in the nation, spoke of her experiences in family advocacy, giving examples of controversial uses of terminology employed by activists which dilute the meaning of the family. She spoke of “lost battles” in Western Europe that can still be fought in Central Europe, but also mentioned the challenge to come up with a unified viewpoint within Christian ranks, and expressed the need for more scientific and academic research on the family.
Dr. Juraj Lajda, Secretary General of UPF Czech Republic, informed participants about the recent establishment of the International Association of Parliamentarians of Peace (IAPP) in London, underlining the crucial role of parliamentarians as mediators between government and civil society and the need for laws to be founded on universal values. Mr. Joseph Gundacker, Director of the Family Forum from Austria, and Mr. Stanislav Trnovec, Director of the Large Family Club in Slovakia re-affirmed the need of a spiritual perspective on family matters, after which a debate was engaged.
The second panel on “Religious Freedom: a Fundamental Freedom in a Changing World” was moderated by Mr. Peter Zoehrer, Secretary General of FOREF Europe.
Hon. Nina Nováková, member of the committee on culture and the sub-committee on human rights in the Czech Parliament, reported on the consultation she organized at the Prague Parliament with Dr. Ján Figel, newly appointed Special Envoy of the EU for religious freedom. She introduced her plan to set up a permanent working group on issues of religious freedom at the Chamber of Deputies, aiming at conducting ongoing dialogue between politicians, academics and representatives of churches and religious organizations. She outlined some of her proposals:
1. Freedom of conviction is absolute; its external manifestation, however, cannot be in conflict with the laws and social norms of the given country.
2. Followers of religion, along with all people merely holding a spiritual belief, should not be considered a tolerated minority, but a majority forming a crucial, non-material dimension of society.
3. A constant and patient dialogue can lead to social harmony and to the return of an ethical approach to all aspects of life, including typically material ones.
4. It is increasingly urgent for politicians to take into consideration the outcomes and recommendations arising from interfaith and intercultural dialogue in the decision-making process.
Mr. Peter Zoehrer then reviewed current expressions of human rights such as in the 1948 Paris Declaration of Human Rights and the Cairo Declaration issued in 1990 by Arab countries advocating the sharia law. Religious freedom, he emphasized, is the freedom to leave or discontinue membership in a religion or religious group. To protect the family, he concluded, it is essential to protect religious freedom since the family is the “only institution created by God”.
The last panel on “Family values, human rights and Judeo-Christian legacy in modern-day Europe: which perspectives?” was moderated by Dr. Juraj Lajda, Secretary General of UPF Czech Republic.
In introduction, Hon. Nina Nováková briefly explained her proposal to amend the Czech Education law in order to strengthen European cultural values in the school system. Classical values such a trust in reason, moral principles, common responsibility, rights and justice, combined with Judeo-christian values from the Ten Commandments, social sensibility, concern for the weak, forgiveness and peaceful conflict resolution, capped by humanist concerns for equality and freedom, are to be taught as the foundation for a peaceful and harmonious society.
Mr. Jacques Marion, Secretary General UPF Europe, said that the Central European initiative needs to be seen in the frame of the greater whole of realizing one world in the global era. Increasingly living in settings that transcend past cultures, we should seek for universal values that form the core of each religion and culture. Family values themselves have a universal dimension. Both science and religion move the human mind toward understanding universal principles, beyond past beliefs and dogmas. Thus, our initiative needs to include dialogue with religious leaders, politicians and scholars.
Dr. Roman Joch, president of the Civic Institute in the Czech Republic, concluded the debate by saying that public policy should focus on promoting stable and married families. The original meaning of human rights is to guarantee liberty and freedom. Claiming collective privileges from the government in the name of human rights is an actual violation of human rights.
Other participants in the debate included Prof. Dr. Judit Balazs, from Budapest Economics University in Hungary; Mrs. Marianna Kovacs, Human Rights Mediator in Hungary; Mr. Tibor Krebsz, President of the Family Federation for World Peace in Hungary; Mr. Peter Meszaros, President of UPF Hungary; Mr. Peter Hetenyi, Vice President of UPF Hungary; Mr. Imre Nagy, Vice President of UPF Hungary; Mr. Milos Klas, Secretary General of UPF Slovakia; Mr. Stanislav Trnovec, director of the Large Family Club in Slovakia.
In conclusion, Round table participants expressed the desire to pursue the themes of the family, European cultural legacy, religious freedom and human rights in national programs as well as internationally. National UPF chapters will contribute to such programs in 2017.