Conservative Christians are banding together and intensifying their activism in the global arena, particularly on family issues in the United Nations, reports the current issue of The Public Eye (Summer/Fall), a leftist newsletter monitoring the religious right.
“Frustrated with political defeats at the national level, the Christian Right is turning to the developing world as an innocent, unspoiled frontier, which might possibly be rescued from a morally bankrupt West,” writes Jennifer Butler. While pursuing the prolife agenda in the UN and other international arenas (even joining with Muslim groups) has been a staple of Vatican activism under Pope John Paul II, the newsletter notes that evangelicals, Mormons, and other believers are now also involved in such efforts.
Turning back pro-choice and feminist initiatives at UN conferences and agencies became a priority among conservative believers after the 1995 Beijing Conference, where “progressive feminist activism’ reached its zenith, writes Butler. Leading the new interfaith effort is the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (affiliated with the Catholic prolife group Human Life International), the Brigham Young University-based World Family Policy Center (WFPC), the Howard Center, the Mormon-based United Families International, and, to some extent, Focus on the Family. .
The WFPC and the Howard Center have sponsored World Congress of the Family meetings where Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others have strategized and targeted UN measures they see as undermining the traditional family. Conservative strategists seeking to block such measures are encouraging other conservative NGOs to apply for consultative status in order to observe certain UN proceedings. Though there has been progress at building an interfaith “conservative bloc,” new divisions have also resulted, as when most Latin American nations deserted a coalition crafted by the Vatican at the follow up meeting to the Beijing conference last June.
In the conservative ecumenical magazine Touchstone (November), Allan Carlson of the Howard Center writes that the Christian Democratic parties’ influence had made the UN strongly supportive of the traditional family in the 1940s. He adds “To succeed this time, though, such an intellectual construct must appeal to more than Western Christians, who no longer dominate the UN or the world; it must build on the idea of a common human nature; and it must embrace all religiously grounded family morality systems around the globe . . . I believe . . . that projects such as the World Congress of Families are taking steps toward encouraging and shaping such a vision.”
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