The International Organization for the Family (IOF), WCF’s parent organization, announced the gathering in January of this year via a press conference WCF/IOF president Brian Brown held with Moldovan President Igor Dodon, who also spoke at last year’s WCF gathering in Budapest. This is the third gathering in a row in Eastern Europe for WCF; prior to Budapest, the conference was held in Tbilisi, Georgia . Brian Brown, left, with Moldovan president Igor Dodon. Dodon claimed at the press conference that about 2,000 people would be in attendance, including 400 experts, politicians and opinion-makers from more than 50 nations.
Since the January announcement, IOF and WCF have been tight-lipped about the gathering. They have bucked the usual practice of announcing speakers weeks or months in advance via press release and website. The website for the Moldovan gathering ( launched in March ) for weeks claimed that a speakers’ list was “ coming soon ,” but the Monday before the conference, one had not been made public. Finally, with just a day before opening ceremonies at the gathering, a list of speakers and schedule was posted on the website.
IOF had teased in August on its website that “some of the top religious leaders in the world” would be attending, including the Vatican secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin; Patriarch Kirill , who is Patriarch of Moscow; and Elder Christoffel Golden, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Dodon will also be speaking, “along with a stellar list of experts, academics and inspirational leaders.” With the release of the official schedule, however, it appears that Patriarch Kirill will not be attending, though a representative for him will be.
In an IOF email newsletter dated September 10, Brown noted he and Dodon will be addressing WCF, and also said IOF staff will lead panel discussions at the conference, including WCF founder Allan Carlson and Nicole King, editor of The Natural Family journal, which IOF publishes. The newsletter said: All told, attendees at WCF XII will have thirteen discussion panels from which to learn from experts, covering such diverse and important topics as emplowering [sic] families in the education of their children, how George Soros operates, challenges to the sanctity of life and strategies to confront them, gender ideology, the United Nations, motherhood, faith and politics. Brown’s address to WCF, according to the newsletter, will deal with …the importance of uniting countries in the east with those in the west to present a global defense of the natural family. Brown will point out that ideas to deconstruct the family and redefine institutions such as marriage, parenthood and gender often start with elites in the west, and are then pushed by wealthy leftist ideologues like George Soros who use their power and influence to spread them worldwide. Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros has become a target of the right over the years, which has created conspiracy theories around him suggesting he funds some sort of global order that seeks to undermine Europe’s Christian values and impose multiculturalism on the continent. Soros is a frequent target of Hungarian authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whose party has passed “Stop Soros” laws to crack down on civil society groups who help immigrants.
Some other details about WCF are emerging via Eastern European media. Accent-TV Moldova reported August 22 that Dodon held a meeting of the WCF working group at which organizational issues were discussed, as more than a hundred representatives from over 40 countries will arrive at the Congress including high-ranking officials, ministers of the Orthodox and Catholic Church and other confessions, public figures [sic]. Co-convening sponsors of this year’s gathering include IOF, WCF, CitizenGO and Din Suflet (“From the Heart”), a charity organization launched in February 2017 by Moldovan first lady Galina Dodon. The Jamestown Foundation notes funding for Din Suflet is notoriously non-transparent, though Igor Dodon has said the Chinese and Turkish embassies are sponsors. CitizenGO is headquartered in Madrid, Spain, and bills itself as a “community of active citizens” using online petitions and action alerts as a resource. Brian Brown sits on the board of trustees of CitizenGO, as does WCF Russian representative Alexey Komov. Russian Ties
WCF Moldova is being held under the auspices of Dodon , who is actively courting relationships with Russia. In December 2017, he told an Orthodox Christian site: I believe that without the Orthodox faith, without our traditions, Moldova has no future. Moldova needs a partnership with Russia; Moldova absolutely needs to preserve and strengthen our Orthodox Church. Indeed, we are now going through a very difficult period, but I am sure that with faith we will get through it all. The Jamestown Foundation noted September 4 that the Kremlin “is finding fertile ground in Moldova for advancing its agenda.” In recent years, the Foundation says, “Moldova has increasingly begun to resemble Russia when it comes to democratic backsliding.”
WCF also has deep ties to Russia. It was founded in 1997 as a result of a meeting between founder Allan Carlson and Russian academics. The organization maintains a WCF Russia representative, Alexey Komov, who, with backing from the WCF, has helped the latter forge bonds between the powerful Christian evangelical lobby in the U.S. and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Russian oligarch and Orthodox backer Konstantin Malofeev funded a 2014 gathering in Moscow that included WCF representatives. Originally, the gathering was to be an official WCF conference, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that year caused WCF to quietly “cancel” the conference publicly. However, a similar gathering with a similar name and schedule on the same dates and in the same location occurred in its stead. Balkan Insight reported in January that Dodon had allegedly approached Malofeev to fund this year’s WCF, but it’s not clear that such a request was actually made, or whether Malofeev is involved with WCF-Moldova.
Radio Free Europe reported September 2 that at a May press conference held in Moldova with Brian Brown, Dodon reported that Malofeev would be funding WCF. When asked later by RFE about that, Dodon claimed his wife’s charity, Din Suflet, would be the only funder.
Alexey Komov is a business partner of Malofeev, and maintains ties to far-right European political actors like the Lega Nord or Northern League (now Lega or League), the Italian anti-immigrant party, which is also a pro-Russia voice in Italy. Malofeev sponsored a secret meeting in 2014 in Vienna through his St. Basil the Great Foundation, which he attended alongside Russian Alexander Dugin, French far-right politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, Aymeric Chauprade, then of the French far-right party the National Front, and Heinz-Christian Strache, of Austria’s far-right party the FPÖ (Strache is now Austria’s vice chancellor).
This Orthodox-Evangelical alliance, of which WCF is an integral part, seeks to undermine the progressive values it claims are rampant in the European Union (EU) and United Nations in Eastern Europe. They preach a dogma of the so-called “natural family,” which posits the only valid family is a heterosexual cisgender married couple and their biological children. The alliance uses anti-LGBT and anti-choice beliefs and rhetoric to influence Eastern European countries to turn away from the EU and embrace policies that are harmful to LGBT people and reproductive rights.
Dodon fully supports the anti-LGBT and anti-choice agenda of WCF, telling the U.S. ambassador to Moldova last year that he opposed an LGBT march that was scheduled to take place in May. He said it would contradict traditional values, the Orthodox religion and morality. “They [LGBT people] cannot and will not be accepted by me personally, neither by the entire society.”
The 2017 march was halted by police soon after it started to prevent clashes with Orthodox groups. According to PinkNews , Dodon told reporters, “I have never promised to be president of the gays, they should have elected their own president.”
Dodon is exactly the kind of authoritarian leader Brian Brown and WCF have been courting in recent years. Brown has spoken approvingly, for example, of anti-democratic Hungarian president Viktor Orbán , and posted a congratulatory letter on the IOF website in April after Orbán was re-elected president, signed by Brown and WCF founder Allan Carlson: At another level, your victory is also a beam of hope for Western Christian Civilization. Many nations in Europe have grown weary and seek little more than a childless decline and ultimate disappearance. In contrast, you have mobilized the Hungarian people toward rebuilding a family-centered, religiously grounded nation, as a contribution to the renewal of all Europe and the recovery of an authentic Christendom. Brown continued: “We remain proud to be partnered with your government and you in convening The World Congress of Families XI in Budapest last May. And we look forward to continued close cooperation.”
With WCF-Moldova, Brown and WCF continue seeking close cooperation with other anti-democratic authoritarian leaders as well.
Speakers at this year’s event include the following: Igor Dodon, President of Moldova
Brian Brown, president of WCF/IOF
Olga Epifanova, deputy chairman of the state Duma, Russian Federation
Ignacio Arsuaga, president, CitizenGO Foundation and Madrid-based HazteOir, responsible for an anti-trans bus and billboard campaign )
Christine Vollmer, member of the Pontifical Council for Family and Life, representative of Latin America (Vollmer has referred to homosexuality as “a condition” and claimed that gay men don’t live as long as straight and that work must be done to “find a cure” for it)
Prince Louis de Bourbon, France (born in Spain; member, royal house of Bourbon , considered a pretender to the defunct French throne who is also a great-grandson of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco)
Elena Mizulina, member, Federation Council of the Russian Federation (Mizulina introduced the anti-LGBT law that passed in Russia in 2013 and has also campaigned to decriminalize domestic violence)
Theresa Okafor, director, African Cultural Heritage Foundation (Okafor has pushed to criminalize homosexuality in Nigeria)
Anna Zaborska, member, European Parliament, Slovakia (Zaborska has claimed that AIDS is God’s vengeance for homosexuality and implied that LGBT people should not be teachers, which puts them around children)
Tamara Pletneva, head of the State Duma’s Profile Committee
Alessandro Fiore, spokesman for ProVita Onlus (Fiore is also the son of Roberto Fiore, leader of Italian neo-fascist party Forza Nuova. Pro Vita and the far-right party have numerous ties .)
Benjamin Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group (The Bow Group is Britain’s oldest conservative think tank. Under Harris-Quinney’s leadership, the Bow Group invited the right-wing Traditional Britain Group, which has called for the repatriation of black people to their "natural homelands," to attend their anniversary dinner at a discounted rate.)
Panelists include the following: Natalia Gergert, member of the Public Chamber of Omsk, Russia
Fabrice Sorlin, president, French Demographic Society ( former head of Catholic militia Dies Irae , whose mission was to prepare white French youth for a civil war against people of color, Muslims and immigrants)
Alexey Komov (see above)
Dmitry Smirnov, official representative of Patriarch […]