ithin the African tradition, it is often said that the family makes children by providing them with a livelihood and by molding their personality, while children make the family by giving it cohesion and a sense of mission and responsibility. In this sense, the family is a wall-less school of wisdom in which, through dialogue and constant interactions, the younger generation is inculcated with the prevailing social norms and values. Like the Greek Arete, the prized virtues and attributes that all aspire to are: respect, sharing, self-control, caring for others, especially for the weak, a sense of humanity, and responsible parenthood. In this sense, the family is a microcosm where morality is taught and experienced.
Indeed, as L.S. Senghor rightly said: "In Black Africa, morality is a way of living that is realized in and by society and above all within oneself, through the family."
On the whole, in African societies the family has been a powerful agent for communal harmony and social stability in so far that core values such as equity, tolerance, respect for other people’s rights and the peaceful resolution of conflicts are duly internalized by the young and become part of their thinking and feelings, giving direction to their daily conduct.
The family in Africa, as elsewhere, has not been spared the deep and wide-ranging changes that have overtaken our societies in the wake of the Second World War. By and large, they have substantially undermined the role and the prerogatives of the family as a central social institution.
Those changes include the rise of young people’s aspirations for freedom from adult tutelage and parental authority. In this perspective, by easing intercultural communication, the technological revolution has generated a youth culture that erodes the binding power of traditional values and the moral authority of parents.
In this respect, as P. Erny has remarked, the contemporary family can no longer easily shape the personality of the young people in conformity with the age-old ideals that are on the decline, nor can it mould their values and conduct in line with the new requirements that are beyond the reach of the older generation.
Hence, the image of the family as a coherent framework of identification is waning, while the school as an agent of socialization has not fulfilled the hopes and expectations that were put into it.
As a consequence, the young are left in a sort of cultural "no-man’s land" in which deviant behavior may become the norm. This tendency manifests itself through disruptive behavior in schools and in the community, lack of respect for parents and teachers alike, drug and alcohol abuse from an unusually tender age, theft, prostitution and sexual misconduct with high risks of contamination by HIV/AIDS.
In this perspective, the violence and insecurity inflicted on African cities by street children together with massive youth involvement in the wars that have ravaged the continent are clear testimonies to the family’s failure to carry out properly its moral obligations.
By their will to embody the ideals of true parents, Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his spouse are determined to enhance the renaissance of the family as a key agent of civic and moral education. Indeed, they believe that the family has been on the decline since the fall of man and that it needs a new vision and mission to create healthy and morally sound communities and nations: As Moon noted when commenting on the breakdown of the traditional family, children not only suffer emotionally when they have less interaction with parents, but they also see no higher moral obligation to live for the family or the larger society. Dysfunctional families do not create the citizens that modern societies require for long-term success.
The crisis in the family is a crisis of communication and interaction between parents and their offspring. This is the "generation gap," as Margaret Mead puts it:
Our present crisis has been variously attributed to the overwhelming rapidity of change, the collapse of the family, the decay of capitalism and the triumph of soulless technology. Behind these attributions there is a more basic conflict between those for whom the present represents no more than an intensification of our existing configurative culture, in which peers are more than ever replacing parents as the significant models of behavior.
One major dimension of the family crisis is the decline of sexual morality. The instrumentalization of sexuality for economic gain or personal gratification is characteristic of our age where scandalous acts such as promiscuity, marital infidelity, juvenile prostitution, forced marriage, sexual mutilation, domestic violence, rape and incest have become common practices which are taken for granted in societies that have lost their moral bearings.
On the whole, the depravation of sexuality has become a social evil of great magnitude through the destabilization and destruction of the family, hence compromising the upbringing of children. The scourge of HIV/AIDS it has generated is a "silent weapon of mass destruction" that has devastated entire households and communities, leaving in its wake orphans in their thousands with the host of problems they have to endure like the lack of affection, schooling and medical care and, worst of all, poverty and sexual exploitation.
In the face of these evils looming over humanity like a second "deluge," Rev. Moon has sounded the clarion call to parents, educators and young people to become aware of the dangers hanging over our world like a Damocles sword. He advocates restoration of the core values of marriage, family life and sexuality to their original function within society.
This is what we consider to be the fundamental and most significant message that Rev. Moon brings to today’s world which has been drifting morally over many decades, with untold consequences. He has reminded us of the sacred nature of marriage, family and procreation whose principles must be inculcated into the hearts and minds all the stakeholders, young and old alike.
The natural and ideal setting for the inculcation of the sacred values of marriage, family life and procreation is the household. In old African traditions, the family was a school of life where adolescents were formally instructed on the rights and responsibilities of spouses in marital life and on the mysteries of sex and procreation and how to order their behavior in these vital matters. These teachings were imparted by experienced men and women within the framework of the rites of initiation which took different forms from one community to another.
The contemporary family should be a lifelong school of values par excellence. Modern parents have thrust upon them the task of conveying society’s basic values to young men and women who are caught between tradition and modernity. The role parents have to play is both exacting and exciting as they have to mould personalities at their formative stage.
Social values can be transmitted through explicit information and dialogue. Indeed, if the family is to achieve its educational objectives, harmony should prevail among its members. The pillars of these harmonious relationships are open lines of communication not only at the vertical level, between parents and children, but also at the horizontal level, between brothers and sisters as between mother and father.
The latter are entrusted with the crucial responsibility of providing a model of integrity and humanity to inspire the younger generation by living for others in their daily accomplishments.
It is through love, sharing and mutual respect between parents that children will learn to live by those virtues in their future families. The same applies to values such as self-restraint and marital faithfulness, mutual support and solidarity, justice, equity, respect for Human Rights, tolerance and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
If such social virtues are duly practiced in the family, there is not the slightest doubt that children will grow into harmonious personalities, prepared to order their future households on a similar model. This is in line with what we learn from Rev. Moon’s thoughts, that through the creation of healthy and harmonious families united communities will emerge and peace will prevail within and between nations.
Today, schools and colleges, where youth from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds converge, must in liaison with the family provide a comprehensive package of sex and family life education from an early age. The latter would dwell not solely on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases but also on marriage preparation.
Adolescents, especially young men, must be enlightened from a social and a scientific viewpoint about sexual impulses and how they have to be channeled for their future well-being. They need to be guided on the choice of a life partner and the value of engagement and mutual trust before and during married life. The "family culture" should be high on the agenda among the aims of education.
Today, humanity is facing challenges of unprecedented magnitude in terms of insecurity on a global scale, climatic change and environmental degradation, drug abuse, sexual immorality and the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Besides, the family that Claude Lévi-Strauss has called the "atom of society" is losing its stability, and with it its central role in shaping society through the proper education of children.
As parents, spouses and teachers we are reminded by Rev. Moon that it is through the revival of the sacred value of marriage and of the fundamental role of the family that harmony will prevail within individuals and in our communities, embracing entire nations and paving the way for world peace.