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Strong Families, Strong Country

It makes a lot of sense to write about family today because in Eritrea January is a season of marriage. As the scripture says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Similarly, in Eritrea, many Eritreans are taking steps to form a family of their own. Marriage is at the heart of our civil laws.

In Eritrea, while there are many forms of marriage, there are conditions common to all of them. Article 522 (1), for instance, stipulates that, “A man and a woman who have not both attained the full age of eighteen years may not contract marriage.” Marriage is a fundamental part of our social system with detailed guidelines. Although the focus this article is the family, I used marriage as an introduction since it is the only way to bring a family into existence.

A nation is built on and secured by values, not just by the might of soldiers and intellect of scientists. In the case of values, families are the first place where values are nurtured, acquired, and transmitted. Just like the performance of students is a reflection of the curriculum, the state of a country is a reflection of the state of its families. The first task of the family is to be the first school where important social values are learnt. The family is at the service of nation-building when parents educate their children to love their country, respect humanity, love truth and justice, respect the law, work hard, be confident and self-reliant, and other essential values. The primary responsibility of parents should be to inculcate values that help children to become good citizens. What should families teach to our sons and daughters so that they can survive and thrive in 2050 and become the heroes of the future?

Eritrean families, more than ever, should teach their children to distinguish right from wrong, to treat others with respect, to disregard distinctions based on regional, ethnic, linguistic, and religious lines, to think freely and act with discipline, and to take responsibility for their actions.

In many ways, Eritrea is one big family. We share common values. In Eritrea, the family is the nucleus of the community. Prior to any educational institution, family is the vital institution where citizens are raised and nurtured. When we plan and discuss the future of our country, we must not forget the fact that our future will be determined by families. Nurturing good citizens hinges on the effectiveness of families. Dysfunctional families can lead to wider social breakdown and upheaval. Stable, well-functioning families on the other hand are the bedrock and foundation of a cohesive and successful society. If the emotional bonding of individual family members is strong, then the national unity of the country will likely also be strong.

Strong families are the foundation of strong communities and a strong country. World leaders are focused on terrorism, climate change, and economic issues, while overlooking the global epidemic of impudence and indecency. Dealing with the menace of terrorism, while not being concerned about the dangers of family breakdowns does not bode well for communities or humanity. Is it justifiable to fear terrorism more than divorce and individualism? Have you ever measured or compared the problems caused by family disintegration versus terrorism? The current international system quickly responds to terrorism, while it is slow to respond to family disintegration and the degradation of values. We have frequently observed politicians lose elections because of terrorist attacks but not because of the increase of family disintegration or immorality in the society. When we look at the consequences, we observe that it rarely has practical benefits for the people. In his book, 21 lessons for the 21st century, Yuval Noah Harari states that, “In most cases, [the] overreaction to terrorism poses a far greater threat to our security than the terrorists themselves.”

In this age of technological revolution, we see how the “divorce revolution” has wreaked havoc on children and left society disillusioned. Many adults, infected by the disintegrative and destructive virus of individualism, have resorted to having children out of marriage. The anticipation of greater freedom has led to lives of poverty and distress. As contraband businesses can adversely impact the national economy, the situation of children conceived via “unethical” relations can pose significant challenges for society. Although I lack concrete data, it seems that in Eritrea the numbers of children born outside marriage, as well as rates of cohabitation and divorce, which were previously taboos, have increased.

It is important that these issues receive our attention. We shouldn’t be comfortable that they may still be “small” or “insignificant” figures. Remember that an epidemic usually starts out “small”, with only a few cases, before spreading rapidly. We should defend and regard the family as a divine institution. We should not forget that it can contribute to socio-economic growth and wellbeing. Many factors have contributed to the delay of marriage and the weakening of the family. To successfully win the battle of nation-building, we must ensure the health and integrity of our families.

The importance of family in Eritrean society is reflected in various government documents. The National Charter of Eritrea states that, “our vision is for Eritrea to preserve its identity and uniqueness, develop commitment to family and community care.” As well, the prelude to the new Civil Code of Eritrea states, “… the Civil Code provides protection, unity and harmony to the natural and basic unit of the society – the family.” When we think of a country, we should not only think about the size of its territory, the population, or its natural and physical characteristics. Rather, we should also consider the characteristics of its people. In understanding any country, an understanding of its family system can prove more useful than knowing its geography or political system.

If you view the homeland as home, the citizens as relatives, and the government as parents, a country resembles a family in many ways. The government’s duty to citizens and the parent’s duty to children are similar. A disciplined family, with solid laws, looks much the same as a stable and secure country. A hard-working family and a self-reliant country are analogous. The obedience of children to their parents’ order and labor with diligence is like the law-abiding civilized society. In an attempt to promote Eritrean development, we must keep the ideal traditional Eritrean family intact. We have to rediscover, protect, and promote our value of the family. Our marriages and our families must be promoted and defended from every possible perversion.

Responsible men and women, coming together through marriage and consenting to and form a family in unity and equality, is an important aspect in establishing a developed nation. Some of the first requirements of nation-building are unity and equality. Therefore, the triumph of our developmental aspirations and the principle of unity in diversity can only be celebrated when we form united, fair, and stable families. The strength of the nation depends on the strength of its citizens. One of the things that a strong family can do is to set an example of ethical and moral behavior. Parents should guide their children by example.

Behind every political, social, and military victory that Eritrea has scored has been a strong family that guides, commands, and nurtures its children. Eritrea’s family system contributed greatly during the struggle for independence and the defense of Eritrea’s sovereignty during the TPLF-led invasion. Now, as ever, a functional family is vital to helping us achieve our lofty ambitions for a strong and prosperous country. Although the future is uncertain, we can safely say that the Eritrea of 2050 will be built, led, and guided by the children that are being born and raised today. The development of a nation depends on the discipline and industriousness of its citizens. However, disciplined and industrious citizens are only possible through strong, cohesive families.


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