—Vladyka, the beginning of a new school year is fast approaching. What challenges, in your opinion, are lying ahead for parents whose children are heading to school? How do the school programs, the modern norms of upbringing and family values of today coordinate with the Christian worldview?
—I’d say they don’t. It’s a simple yet conclusive answer to your question. Society is filled with rhetoric about children’s rights protection, the value of human life, or adequate upbringing. But we are witnessing changes in the educational programs and the rewriting of history for political gain, how the personalities and historical figures who denounced the Orthodox faith are called heroes despite their collaboration with the invaders and aggressors. For a few decades now, the so-called “European values” have been introduced into the educational system, reversing the Christian norms with regards to family and marriage, the relationships between parents and children.
We can’t be but very concerned about the recent tendencies to have juvenile justice adopted as a law. As you know, the Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine initiated the formation of the juvenile justice institute in 2020. The seemingly attractive idea of protecting the rights of minors and juveniles was taken as a basis of this system, which is supposed to bring down the juvenile crime rate. However, the Statistical Service of the European Union (Eurostat) states that in several European countries with active use of juvenile justice norms, the crime rates among minors and juveniles has not only not declined but has grown exponentially. The Eurostat reports that during the last ten years, the number of youth crimes has risen by thirty percent in Europe.
Beginning from the 1990s, the juvenile crime rate in sixteen countries has grown more than twofold. Even in a traditionally safe Sweden, this kind of crime has increased twentyfold (whereas the adult crime rate has grown only four times). The leader in juvenile crime is the USA. The crimes committed by juveniles take place there seventy times more often than in France or England and ten times more often than in Canada.
—It’s a bitter reality. What are the things like in Ukraine?
—There are ongoing attempts to introduce the juvenile justice system in Ukraine similar to the one used in France from 1949. But as far back as twenty years ago, Bruno, Inspector General of the Legal Department, has presented the comprehensive evaluation of this judicial normative standard. By order of the French Government, he performed a status analysis of juvenile courts and the social services about children removed from their parents. In particular, the report stated:
An extraordinary number of children were removed from parents and located to the asylums or foster families… The social workers and judges exercise absolute and unlimited power over the child’s life. The social service employees would often remove children after receiving anonymous telephone calls…
According to French attorneys, no less than fifty percent of the children were removed unlawfully.
—Vladyka, the demographic crisis in our country is expectably deepening amid the degradation of the institution of family and marriage in society. At the moment, the data by Goskomstat (the State Statistics Service) of Ukraine shows that seventy percent, or seven out of ten registered marriages are dissolved during the first five years. Moreover, the number of registered marriages was down by one-third compared to twenty years ago.
—Truly, it is a worldwide problem of massive proportions. In the first place, it concerns the countries that consider themselves global leaders—the European countries, the USA, and a few others. As you mentioned earlier, things aren’t going any better in Ukraine either, and we are also witnessing the gradual erosion of the concept of family as such. Many countries throughout the world are introducing the so-called “inclusivity terminology” that uses absolute concepts to avoid the notion of biological gender. Such notions as “father,” “mother,” “brother,” “sister,” “family” etc., are gradually becoming forbidden to use.
In the USA, for example, since the start of the twenty-first century, the word “person” gradually replaced “man” because the latter was identical to “male.” We see how “relative No. 1” is suggested for use instead of “father” and “relative No. 2” instead of “mother.”
Besides, gender ideology is being promoted in every possible way, meaning that gender isn’t meant to be the one assigned at birth, but rather through personal self-definition, when a man loses a distinct vision of his biological identification. These things lead to the degradation not only of the concept of a family, but also of the institution of family values in general.
Sadly, LGBT propaganda is gaining ever-greater traction, and it is purposefully fighting against the family as a whole, renouncing any morals or any societal Christian faith-based principles.
The Orthodox Church is making vigorous missionary and educational efforts to defend family values; it is trying to bring to the knowledge of public officials and social institutions the importance of protection of Christian family values and norms. We remind them that the family has always been and will remain the principal factor contributing to the development of human conscience and man’s inner world. We must unite our efforts for the sake of family, because not only does our individual wellbeing depend on it, but the welfare of our nation as well.
—Vladyka, what would you recommend to those Christian parents whose children are involuntarily forced to face all of the moral and educational distortions mentioned in our conversation?
—What the children will be like when they grow up above all else depends on their parents. We must remember that we can protect the child from the distortions of the secular world by the proper Orthodox upbringing, bearing in mind that the Christian family is a small Church. If this home Church is ruled by God’s grace, a prayer is heard and the Gospel with the lives of the saints is read, or when the parents treat each other with humility, self-sacrifice, and love—then the children will instinctively soak it all up in their childish hearts. In return, we must gradually explain to children that the Christian values they cherish as a family are different from those offered by the modern system of education.
The life of a child may be compared to the purity of a crystal object, equally beautiful and precious. It is so easy to shatter this beauty and harmony and so difficult to restore it, just as it‘s hard to glue a shattered crystal vase back together.
Not only Orthodox Christians or followers of other confessions, but also every member of our society should keep in mind that it is impossible to defend a child from universal evil by taking away his belief in God.