This month marks the beginning of the United Nations International Year of the Family.

The UN General Assembly, in sponsoring the year, declared the family to be “the basic unit of society.” The family unit “therefore warrants special attention,” the proclamation states.

Although the UN record promoting family values has often been tarnished, especially given its vigorous depopulation policies, the current declaration would please even the most ardent pro-family lobbyist.

“Programmes should support families in the discharge of their functions, rather than provide substitutes for such functions,” the UN proclamation states. “They should promote the inherent strengths of families, including their great capacity for self-reliance, and stimulate self-sustaining activities on their behalf.” The UN declaration stops short of actually defining the family, but concentrates on what it calls the family’s fundamental importance at the heart of society.

Other than proclaiming the year on behalf of the family, the UN will remain relatively uninvolved in the celebrations among the member countries. It will act more as a support for local and national groups. It has set up a fund to support national action and projects, especially in developing countries, and has national committees for the family overseeing the events.

Everyone wants to get in on the act. Groups which have signed on as partners in Canada represent some of the cornerstones of Canadian society. They include banks, big businesses, government and religious groups. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Royal Canadian Legion and the Canadian Bible Association are joined by the Salvation Army, the Council of the Muslim Community of Canada, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Two large religious organizations with an active interest in the family, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, have also signed on as partners. The CCCB plans a statement which will consist of a message of support to families, a spokeswoman with the bishops’ conference said.

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, a high-ranking Catholic prelate and the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said in Toronto recently that the Catholic Church, while supporting the International Year of the Family, will continue to express the family’s “fundamental identity and nature, inscribed on it by God the Creator.”

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada also plans a big splash to mark the year of the family.

Christine Kirby, family ministry co-ordinator with EFC, says the group is working independently of the UN.

“We’re basically using their logo and that’s it,” she says. “We’re not linked with them. We’re taking advantage of the Year of the Family and using it to reinforce some good values.” She says the EFC is aware of the history of the UN, and some of its anti-life policies, but she says Evangelicals want to take advantage of the good things the UN does and build on them.

There are about 1,000 member churches with the EFC and many others who are not officially members but will be participating. The events, called Family Invitationals, are for congregations across the country.