I recently was in Warsaw, Poland for the World Congress of Families IV. The Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society sponsored five college students as Young Leaders Fellows, which was an incredible opportunity to meet other students who are passionate about strengthening the family. I was in the middle of paper-writing and final exams, but the experience was completely worth it. The conference was spread over three jam-packed days at Warsaw’s infamous Palace of Culture and Science and it had over 3,000 attendees!
The conference was organized into various themes, including “The Natural Family and the Future of Nations” and “Faith and Family: The Vital Bond.” The speakers repeated an alarming statistic—the replacement rate in Europe, in Poland, in the U.S., and many other places is negative! That means that more people are dying than are being born. The speeches encouraged having large families, bemoaned the high rate of divorce, particularly in the U.S., and emphasized good parenting. While I myself do not desire a large family (I come from a two-kid house, and I just can’t imagine having so many children, but I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it), I did see value in what they had to say. Immodesty certainly has led to a lot of the crises discussed at the conference. I can’t possibly expound on all of these issues succinctly, and I think many of the posts on this blog have dealt with these themes before, such as immodest sexual behavior’s role in broken homes and the need for real role models for kids. I had already heard most of what was said at the conference, but the best part was being in an auditorium with 3,000 other people who agreed!
My favorite speaker was the incredibly poised Christine Vollmer, who is the President of the Alliance for the Family. She spoke about being a modern woman, how women want to be women but at the same time, wanting to have it at all. It is certainly a struggle I recognize, as I am about to enter the real world and will eventually be confronted with the challenge of balancing family and career.
It was quite inspiring seeing so many youth there. The Palace was teeming with Polish university students. I talked to one who said that he is chastised by his classmates for being a pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family activist. Sorta parallels my experience at Harvard, which is alarming, considering that Poland is a predominantly Catholic—and devoutly so—country. I had heard that Polish people were still faithful members of the Catholic Church, and wasn’t convinced until I saw about 30 people receiving communion outside of a church on Sunday night because it was too full inside. Anyway, if students aren’t concerned about low birth rates and the decline of marriage, it’s possible that in one generation all this good work might be forgotten. I’m not sure how shocking the statistics have to be for young people to start paying attention. What will make people start to care about this issue?