Head of Christian charity warns of 'looming disaster' due to ageing populations and low birth rates

Supporters of gay marriage wave rainbow flags outside the US Supreme Court after it legalised same-sex marriage in June last year.Reuters

The head of a leading Christian charity has warned of "looming disaster" in Europe due to ageing populations and a low birth rate.

Nola Leach of Care was speaking to Christian Today after it was revealed that a scheme that allows members of the public to petition for new EU laws could be abandoned, because the public keeps asking for the wrong sorts of laws.

The European Citizens' Initiative is to be reviewed after a petition for a law to define marriage as between a man and a woman received more than a million signatures.

The aim of the initiative was to boost democracy by forcing the European Commission to look at proposals backed by more than a million signatories, the Daily Mail reports. But the success of Christian campaign groups in gaining support for traditional marriage has led to fears that the system could end up boosting euroscepticism.

European commissioners ordered the review at a recent meeting in Brussels.

The minutes of the meeting say: "During the ensuing discussion, the Members regretted that experience to date had shown that citizens' initiatives did not always move European law or the European project forward, but tended instead to involve highly controversial and emotionally charged issues of greater interest to minorities than to the vast majority of EU citizens and, ultimately, generated Euroscepticism."

Under the citizens' initiative scheme, the European Commission must consider changes in EU law if more than one million signatures on a petition are collected from at least seven member states.

One previous petition to phase out animal testing attracted 1.2 million signatures and another, to stop EU money being used to fund abortions or medical research on embryos, got 1.7million signatures.

The "Mums, Dads and Kids" petition for traditional marriage, to be launched officially next month, says that "wide parts of the population are very uncomfortable with the surreptitious re-definition of marriage" through same-sex marriage. It proposes a new law that would not prevent countries from offering same-sex marriages but would allow those that do not, to refrain from giving homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Nola Leach, chief executive of Care, told Christian Today: "It is extremely regrettable that the Commission are making noises about closing down the petitions scheme. Across Europe, aging populations coupled with a low birth rate signal a looming disaster and EU support for the family is urgently needed. The fact is there is no clear definition of the family in European law and what Care and others are seeking to do is provide one.

"There are clear benefits in doing so not least because family life is central to European society. This initiative took as its working definition the lowest common denominator of mum, dad and kids as a starting point to help inform a more clearly defined definition of family."

Paul Moynan, director of Christian charity Care for Europe, which is part of Care, said: "We want to see laws which support family life, and respect each member state's right to make their own family policies. With only 1.5 children being born to each European woman, there is an urgent need to encourage family life. Our populations are ageing and are less and less able to replace themselves."