• June 4th, 2020

The Family: Reflections on its importance


In my last article on the family, I wrote about the protection and the joy children bring into our lives and the potential they have of deepening one’s relationship with the world.  On the other hand, it has been said before, that “the way a society treats its children is a reflection of the dynamics of that society”.

Think, for instance, of how one of the first projects of the democratic South Africa was, President Mandela’s Children’s Fund, and the school feeding schemes.  A new country was reflecting a new attitude towards its children.  

Contrary to this, we can contrast this with abandoned children, which is a sure sign that society has abandoned its values.
Everyday, those of us who work close to the ground in communities hear of abused and violated children. 
 Newspapers report on magistrates who send paedophiles back into the homes where they have been abusing children.  
In a world where child-soldiers fight wars in every hemisphere, we seem to have forgotten that child-soldiers went into battle on both sides on the apartheid struggle.

We should commend churches and institutions for making certain years the “Year of the Family”.  It is a concept that we need to explore further as we journey into the 21st century.  

Sloganeering, however, tends to trivialise the real issues, it is an ever present danger that we must guard against. 
 In particular, we need to be aware that the ‘religions’ right’ has claimed the concept of the family as the battlefield around which they have drawn their laager.

If the year of the family in churches or institutions is allowed to degenerate into a syrupy dobsonesque fantasy of family, then we will have wasted our time.  Serious challenges confront our society, and in particular the children of Namibia.
What we do not realise is that allowing harm to our children propagates evil towards the next generation. The child who was abused today becomes an abuser tomorrow. 

We will have wasted our time if we fail to face the questions of street children; child abuse and exploitation; gangsterism; abandonment; and child violence that is so prevalent in our societies.  The emphasis on family ensures that children are given a safe haven, where they are treated, raised, fed and groomed to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Taking into consideration the current global situation, the unfortunate outbreak of Covid-19 has taught us the importance of family as the pandemic so to say forced families to spend time together by being confined in their homes for extended periods. Home schooling programmes were adopted in most communities to ensure continuation of education. Overall, the importance of family and respect for children during this period became more evident than ever.

The family is the basis of human society, what Karl Rahner calls “the church in miniature” (Inquiries Pg 292).  The implication is that society is an extension of the family.  We should be cautious with this analogy though, because society has the biggest influence on the family, rather than the other way around.  Families are intended by God to be accepting communities, empowering structures, organisms that build self-confidence and human symbiosis.  They are the environment in which we learn social skills and should be micro-entities of faith.

In the society, we have often exchanged acceptance for condemnation; self-confidence for guilt; self-esteem for self-abasement; symbiosis for displays of power and domination; social openness for particularism; and identification as a community of a book rather than of faith.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said “God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family that we are made for togetherness for goodness, and for compassion”.
Let us strive to ensure that we as a community remain a family to all around us, especially the children on whom our future relies upon.


Staff Reporter
2020-05-19 10:34:13 | 16 days ago

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