World Congress of Families & Mother of God’s Belt to Persuade Russian Women to Have More Babies

A press release from Don Feder and the World Congress of Families:

World Congress of Families Managing Director Larry Jacobs called Russia’s new abortion restrictions “a modest step in the right direction — but a positive development nonetheless.”

…The World Congress of Families sponsored the first international conference dealing with the worldwide decline of birthrates — “The Moscow Demographic Summit: Family and the Future of Humankind” — at the Russian State Social University, June 29-30.

More than 500 participated, including demographers, economists, ethicists, researchers, scholars, leaders and activists from every corner of the world.  It was blessed by Patriarch Kirill and welcomed by the Russian Duma.

I previously blogged on the WCF back in 2008, after an article on the subject by Kathryn Joyce brought a wrathful rebuke from Feder; before that, I noted a WCF conference in Poland in 2007.

The WCF website gives further background to the Russian connection:

It is very symbolic that the original idea to hold periodic meetings of people sincerely concerned about the deep crisis of the Family and search for its rebirth as the fundamental unit of society, was born in Moscow in 1995, during the conversation of Dr. Allan Carlson (author of the well-known Manifesto of the Natural Family) with Professor Antonov A.I. of the Moscow State Lomonosov University. Thanks to the enthusiasm it has created, the idea was quickly put into practice. A year later, in 1997, the first World Congress of Families was held in Prague. So far five World Congress of Families have been held in various parts of the world, attracting thousands of defenders of Life and Family from all over the world. More than 3,800 people representing 60 countries took part in the last Congress in Amsterdam.

Returning to Feder’s press release, speakers included “Natalya Yakunina (President of the Sanctity of Motherhood Program)”, and he adds that:

Abortions in Russia, Demographic Winter and the natural family were also recent topics at the Rhodes Forum.  Along with Mrs. Yakunina (Vladimir Yakunin’s wife), Jacobs was co-moderator of a roundtable discussion on “Maintaining Family Values in the 21st Century,” as part of the 9th Annual Session of the Rhodes Forum of the World Public Forum’s Dialogue of Civilizations held on the Isle of Rhodes, Greece, October 7-10.  Participants overwhelmingly affirmed the right to life as a basic human right and highlighted the demographic crisis facing Russia and Europe.

Vladimir Yakunin runs Russia’s railways, and he has been described by the Moscow Times as “the Kremlin’s model ‘Orthodox businessman'”. Yakunin is a co-founder of the World Public Forum, and his opening speech noted “incompatibility between the neo-liberal interpretation of the system of human rights and the system of human values”, and that “the universal urge to have the ‘freedom’ to say ‘anything and in any form’ has a temporary character and is beginning to fade away”.

Yakunin also heads the St. Andrew’s Foundation, of which the WPF is an initative, and his family-values efforts are not just confined to conferences; Interfax reports that he has arranged for a relic to brought to Russia from Mount Athos:

…”One of the reasons why we asked the Vatopedi Monastery to bring the belt of the Mother of God to Russia is demographic situation in our country. We think this shrine will arouse interest to spiritual revival of our society, to family values,” head of St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation and head of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin told journalists on Athos.

…Vatopedi Father Superior Archimandrite Yefrem said the monastery had earlier refused the request to bring the reliquary to other countries, for example to the USA, Romania. The exception was made for Russia.

I previously wrote about Vatopedi and Ephraim here. Ephraim was also at a WPF conference on the subject of Mount Athos which took place in July.


The World Public Forum brings together international academics, religious figures, and politicians. One of the co-chairmen is former Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer; Gusenbauer is also a “consultant” to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev (Tony Blair is another), and Yakunin recently presented Nazarbayev with a World Public Forum prize a few days before elections in Kazakhstan (Nazarbayev, who had reluctantly agreed to disregard term limits and stay on for a third decade in power, won 95.5 per cent of the vote).

There is something odd about the WPF, though: as I’ve noted previously, while the WPF supports inter-faith dialogue and has Muslim participants, one of its three co-founders is a US-based businessman named Nicholas Papanicolaou, who identifies with the neo-Pentecostal end of the Christian Right: he is a board member of Rick Joyner’s Oak Initiative, alongside Gen William “Jerry” Boykin. In turn, Joyner and Boykin are members of a “chivarlic order” called the “Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta (The Ecumenical Order)“, of which Papanicolaou is Grand Master, and some of the Order’s events have been held on property controlled by Joyner’s Morning Star Ministries (this “Ecumenical Order” should not be confused with the better-known Roman Catholic Knights of Malta). Joyner, Boykin, and the Oak Initiative are hostile to Islam, and Papanicolaou has himself written a book entitled Islam vs the United States. The Order, by contrast, is supposed to support inter-religious understanding, but that did not prevent Boykin and Papanicolaou from sending out a public letter in the Order’s name which equated “devout Muslims” with terrorism.

Papanicolaou was not listed as being involved with the latest WPF event – but he happened to be on Rhodes at around the same time, inducting new members into his Order. Among them was Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, who had addressed an English Defence League rally in February.

4 Responses

  1. […] I blogged on plans for the belt’s visit to Russia a few weeks ago – Yakunin believes that the belt will promote “family values”, and his wife Natalya (President of the Sanctity of Motherhood Program) recently took part in a World Congress of Families conference in Moscow with US Christian Right activists and others. […]

  2. […] women conceive, and the St Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which brought it to the country, is hopeful that it will promote “family values” in Russia. I blogged on the background to the […]

  3. […] of Motherhood Program) joined Don Feder and Larry Jacobs at a World Congress of Families event in Moscow. Share […]

  4. […] of Motherhood Program) joined Don Feder and Larry Jacobs at a World Congress of Families event in Moscow. There are also unexpected overlaps between the WPF and organisations involving US Christian Right […]

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