14th November 1999
'Restore family life'
By Roshan Peiris
Bishop Swithin Fernando naturally sees life then and now through the medium of spiritual exaltation. In keeping with his calling as a man of God, he treads softly when comparing those days - the days of his youth - with that of the present generation.
"Home life was much more sacred than it is today. No matter what else went on in the world, home and family were an integral component and spelt security," Bishop Fernando said. "But today there is hardly a time when the family as a unit comes together. As a Christian, I would say, there are hardly any homes which uphold that lovely practice of devotion and family prayers.
"When such basic features disappear, disintegration takes place everywhere," he stressed.
The Bishop who loves mankind in the fashion of a philanthropist said, "For my part, I in no way lose hope in the restoration of the highest qualities of home life. Only in those days, duty was uppermost. Today somehow it is lacking.
"But may I qualify and say not always."
"Those days we played games - cricket and the like and spent many a happy holiday and weekend. Today the younger generation look for more stimuli and are addicted to watching television. I am not being old fashioned. TV is an excellent asset if used with circumspection and a measure of discipline. Well this is true of all other modes of communication as well.
"We were carefree and played games, but discipline was in focus so that we did not have to strain ourselves to keep this in mind.
"Today children are subjected to strain in education. This is because children are infected as are their parents with the illusory concept of competition to get on in life. There is private tuition and many other extra classes such as dancing, music and elocution. So the growing child is robbed of leisure to a very great measure."
On marriage, Bishop Fernando said, "Arranged marriages were the trend in our time but today marriages are the outcome of love affairs. For my part, I would say that arranged marriages without love are sometimes as sad as the so-called love marriages that fail."
With regard to religion, a subject close to his heart he said, "Today's youth are no less sensitive to the call of religion. They too regard it as the core of life. Young people are not in any way less responsive to that which is good, as we were in our day. The form of response may be different, yet the quality is of no less value. This generation must learn to harmonise differences among them rather than focusing on them, which leads to clashes."
Referring to the menace of drugs stalking the youth, the Bishop said, "Hard drugs were never heard of in our days. But schoolchildren indulge in them today. This questionable practice amongst the young is no doubt due to some impoverishment in life.
"This impoverishment at all levels today is due to the lack of home and family life and also unity. The demands of life are such that both parents have to work. After a hard day's work they are less inclined to spend time talking to their children, finding out about their life and friends."
"We pray that their hard life and work must not be debased in any way. There are many parents who have adroitly combined both their working and home lives. Then the children don't feel deprived. There is beautiful harmony even among some working parents with their children," he said.
Touching on the topic of respect for elders, he said, "Unfortunately, today, respect for one another has gone. It is sadly wanting. Respect for one another and for elders as it was in our day earns for the community as a whole, a very rich quality of life which is lacking often today."
Bishop Fernando, who has held high responsibility as the Bishop of Colombo, has an unconquerable cheerfulness which makes him look upon those times and now with deep understanding.
He uses his religious calling and upbringing to bring about a great understanding of the younger generation.
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