Off the Wall 22/4/15
Last weekend I joined in two separate celebrations of two little children marking their first birthdays as well as their baptisms. Both celebrations included extended family – one the extended family of Dilkusha Home and the other my wife’s extended family. Both baptisms took place in mainline church communities in which infant baptisms are recognised and eventually followed at a later time with the grown child professing faith and having their baptism sealed by “confirmation”. Both these children live in “extended families” in which other family members make up for the absence of a father.
As the Methodist Church in Fiji observes Family Week, Methodist Secretary for Christian Citizenship and Social Services, Rev. Iliesa Naivalu, said that the family forms the fundamental unit of society and strong families are crucial to the health and preservation of society.
“Yes, the family is the most important unit of society and plays an essential role in fulfilling the emotional and physical needs of individuals, which is required for achieving economic and social development".
Rev. Naivalu stressed that each member of a family must strive to have quality time with members of their own families.
“Sadly the world has created substitutes for families. Neither do parents have time for their children nor do children have time with their parents. Likewise, couples do not have time for themselves as they are being dragged by their busy schedules whether it is of work or other matters of interest.
“When you look at the working relationship of the family, you can begin to understand now why you don't have time for all those "friends." What time you do have, you have to put into strengthening the family relationship. Even if it's just you, your spouse, and one child, it still takes time, because the people in your family are changing all the time, and you have to be willing to change with them.
“The family is also the chief place for learning our social responsibilities. We come to accept our duty to God in most cases as a result of our respect for our parents and obedience to their commands. We also learn how to relate to society by our experiences in relating to every member of our family circle.
“Once those basic foundations are established well at home, children who become adolescence will carry these virtues with them wherever they go.
“The values and coaching passed on to us from our family members will stay there guiding us for the rest of our lives, thereby ensuring our growth and survival in the society. It won’t be an understatement to claim that our family is the first institute where we were taught how to cope up with the physical world. In fact, psychologists state that a child learns most of the things in life from his family. After all, we all inherit some qualities from our parents.
“Even when we migrate from one place to another, we carry our family values with us. In fact, our family is responsible for our identity. Remember, the world knows you by your actions and not by your intentions. Whatever we have learned from our family over the years serves as a basic premise for our actions in life.
“While technology has certainly helped families stay in close contact with each other, can it replace the feeling that one receives after hugging his/her child? Whatever the case may be, the significance of family is incalculable!
“The actions of those of our youths, who are now sadly coined as thugs, are simply the product of the kind of society we are creating. So there is no need for blaming games but the government, the churches and the community at large must put their heads together and put up constructive and holistic programs that give us solutions to our problems.
“The family is one of the fundamental building blocks of society. If you do not have strong families, you are not going to have a strong society. Unfortunately, the state of the family in Fiji continues to deteriorate. The marriage rate is falling and divorce rate is increasing while more children now live in a home without a father.
“A family provides the safety net for their children, so they can be fed, clothed, sheltered, educated, and loved. It doesn't matter what the make-up is of the family, it matters if they are supported in their efforts to protect and nourish their children.
“When we have weak families, we also have weak societies. A weak society is one with low marriage rate, increased divorced rate, more single parents, rise in children being born out of wedlock, more couples “move in together” before they get married, more children live in a home without a father, more people live on welfare funds, rise in homeless population in urban areas, a rise in primary and high school students having sex before reaching the age of 18, a rise in teenage pregnancies, more young people suffering from sexual diseases, more younger people turning to alcohol and drugs, more people sent to correctional institutions, more children are being raised by movies, television and video games because the parents are out, more gender violence - rape and child abuse.
“Unfortunately, these problems are not going to be fixed overnight. Getting the “right politicians” into office will not solve our problems and neither will spending a bunch of money.
“The change that we need is a change of the heart. We need to change how we treat one another and we need to get our priorities straight.
“Our families are really messed up, and this is hurting our kids the most. There is no way that this country is going to have any hope for a bright future unless our families start getting stronger.
You can read the full text of the Methodist Church in Fiji’s Family Week message at http://www.methodistfiji.org/department-of-christian-citizenship-and-social-services.html
“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”