April 7, 2016
“Herzlich Willkommen!” Welcome to UFI in Germany-Austria – Switzerland!
Last year we were honored to introduce you to Hubert Huh and the UFI-Korea chapter, and today we are happy to introduce you to Markus and Caroline Gappmaier of Bern, Switzerland, who are forming a UFI chapter in the German-speaking countries of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
As you can see from their message below, the Gappmaiers have been involved in pro-family work for decades, and we are honored to have them join our UFI team. They are good examples of people who are always looking for ways to strengthen families wherever they live.
We asked the Gappmaiers what problems families are facing in Switzerland. You may find it interesting to see that many of their challenges hit close to your home as well:
Q – What are some of the biggest problems families are facing in Switzerland?
- The politically-correct view of our society on divorce as something that is a pretty normal part of life in relationships;
- Occupational and financial prosperity as key success indicators;
- The rapid, even dramatic loss of religious interest and faith in God in our society in the past couple of years/decades.
- The biggest problems deal with the consequences of digital media usage (focus/distraction/addiction; anytime/anyplace availability, pornography everywhere, easy access, gaming habits/time consumption, continuing interaction with former friends/partners; media usage by children/youth and unprepared, overwhelmed parents).
Perception of people and relationships as well as rhythms in life change dramatically (e.g., last thing in the evening and first thing in the morning is a cooperative computer game and not the spouse, children, etc.).
Q – Are parents having fewer children?
- In the past 5 years the birth rate has been rather stable with on the average 1.5 children, with 20% of those stemming from unwed mothers (Switzerland). It has to be added that this considers the childbirth rate of foreigners as well, which is often higher than the one of Swiss couples. For many young couples the goal is two children at most.
Q – Do many couples live together without getting married?
- Here, marriage definitely is not the standard “framework” for intimate relationships; cohabitation is mostly not even a topic anymore. It increasingly becomes the generally accepted and expected norm, with couples choosing marriage some time later in life or not at all (with less and less legal/fiscal reasons for marriage, if at all; in Switzerland it is fiscally more attractive to cohabit). The average marriage age is 30 – 31 in Switzerland.
Q – Is pornography impacting families?
- Yes, young couples as well as older relationships. Although pornography is mostly not viewed as a “bad thing” in the Swiss public, people are slowly but surely starting to see that it can still be (and often is) destructive for people and in relationships. But many still live in denial and judge pornography “politically correct” as something that just has to be dealt with wisely, as is the case with legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco (publicly widely accepted vices here in our area).
We appreciate the Gappmaiers for teaming up with United Families International, and we look forward to continuing to work together to strengthen the families in the Germany-Austria-Switzerland region.If you would like to start a UFI chapter in your corner of the world, just contact us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!
Forward for Families,
United Families International, President
United Families International D-A-C-H Chapter
By Markus and Caroline Gappmaier
In 2015 we approached the UFI leadership with a suggestion for cooperation in the German speaking parts of Europe, as the “D-A-CH Chapter” of United Families International (D-A-CH is an acronym for the countries Germany (D), Austria (A) and Switzerland (CH). We were graciously accepted as part of the growing UFI family. This was very pleasing to us as there seems to be an ever-growing need for effectively joining forces in the increasingly challenging, globally relevant endeavors to strengthen marriages and families everywhere.
As people with strong convictions of the lasting importance of happy families with parents who are officially and consistently committed to each other and to their children, we have been dedicated to the strengthening of couples and families for more than the past quarter century.
In the late 1980’s a small group of young families desired to learn and support each other in our individual quests to raise strong and happy families on the basis of the values of our faith. Our small scale efforts as parents, many with a social science oriented university education, were soon thereafter organized formally as a registered association in Austria, named “Initiative for the Family.” (IFF)
Over time, those efforts became an informal expert group called Family Empowerment Team (FET), working mainly from Switzerland. This not-for-profit group organized Family Empowerment Workshops during which families could learn crucial family skills enabled and supported by professionals such as family life educators and family counselors.
As pressures on families have increased dramatically – due to recent developments such as new, legally binding definitions of the concept of marriage as well as the rapid development of digital media – in 2013 the D-A-CH-wide initiative “HLT benCH” was founded with the main objective of strengthening families via mutual professional support of bread-winners. Through regional workshops, multi-national conferences, and digital media, the goal was to make it easier for bread-winners to successfully balance work and family responsibilities in the midst of an increasingly challenging social, cultural and political climate.
At the same time it became obvious that more and other types of the strengthening of families was needed here in our area. So we decided to organize yearly conferences with the objective of high-quality family life education, and to perform monthly workshops with instruction as needed, all in a local castle reflecting the lasting safety which is so much needed by families nowadays. This mutual interest group is named LEZ (Landshut), which acronym means Center for the Development and Winning of Life (located at Landshut Castle).
While strengthening families through “LEZ Landshut” and “HLT benCH” activities we continue with individual coaching and faith-based workshops, as well as in working with media with the goal of spreading understanding and experience in family-related matters. All of these activities we are convinced will be enhanced by our new association with United Families International, for the benefit of many in the German speaking D-A-CH region of Europe. We are looking forward to a future enhanced by as much beneficial cooperation as possible and desirable.
Caroline and Markus Gappmaier, live in the Province of Bern, Switzerland. Caroline, a native Swiss, has a B.S. in Marriage, Family and Human Development and is a Family Life Educator. Markus, a native Austrian, is a Social and Economic Scientist (Ph.D.) with a focus on cooperative, systemic change who works in educational, business and family settings. Together, and with other colleagues, they love strengthening couples and families through education and holistic coaching. They are the grateful parents of four adult children, and the excited grandparents of seven.
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