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40 Days For Life Gaining European Ground (Part I)
Campaign Director Robert Colquhoun on the UK's Response
By Carrie Gress
LONDON, January 08, 2013 (Zenit.org) - When the truth of abortion is made known, then abortion will come to an end, says Robert Colquhoun.
Colquhoun is the campaign director in the United Kingdom for 40 Days for Life, a pro-life organization that has saved the lives of more than 800 babies intended for abortion.
He spoke with ZENIT about the expanding foothold the group is having in Europe as well as the unique trials of the UK in the fight for life.
Colquhoun's pro-life work is featured in the soon to be released book "40 Days for Life: True Stories from the Movement that is Changing Hearts and Saving Lives One Prayer at a Time," available in mid-January, commemorating the 40 year anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United States.
Part 2 of this interview will be published in Wednesday's service.
ZENIT: 40 Days for Life has come to Europe, starting with Denmark and Northern Ireland and now you're in England. What is it and how would you characterize its reception? What have been some of the results?
Colquhoun: 40 Days for Life is a locally organized community initiative encouraging Christians to pray and fast for an end to abortion.
A prayer vigil is organized outside an abortion facility for at least 12 hours a day during a 40-day period, once during the fall and then during Lent.
We also organize community outreach: taking a positive and upbeat pro-life message to all parts of the community through door-to-door activism, media, events and through the arts.
Before we started our first campaign, I thought that our campaign would not be a success because it was outside the comfort zone of most people to pray in public. However, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
The chairman of the largest pro-life organization in the UK said that it was the most successful pro-life initiative in recent years. We are now on our sixth campaign in London.
Ann Furedi, the head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the largest abortion provider in the UK, when referring to the prayer vigils outside abortion centers, told us on national radio to "Take your love somewhere else." We did just that!
We now are preparing for campaigns all across the country with local teams in Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton, Taunton, Leamington Spa, Liverpool, Milton Keynes and Oxford, just to name some of the cities!
The most fruitful legacy is the lives that have been saved as a result of a peaceful, prayerful and legal presence outside of abortion centers.
As we discovered, some women are having abortions because they feel that they have no choice.
In the last campaign alone in London, we saw 14 women scheduled for an abortion who chose life for their babies.
In Birmingham, 10 women chose life who had appointments at the local abortion facility, while other cities through our campaign have provided care, financial support and counseling for women considering abortion.
In Brighton, a lady who was raped was given sufficient support which enabled her to keep her child.
The vast majority of the prayer volunteers experience spiritual growth during the campaign. Pregnancy centers have experienced a new lease of life in different cities around the country.
There has been a mixed reaction from the public, while pro-abortionists can be especially vocal at times.
ZENIT: Do you think other European countries will join you?
Colquhoun: There have been campaigns across Spain already.
The Helpers of God's Precious Infants already has an extensive number of cities in Germany where there are prayer vigils.
I recently attended an international pro-life conference in Biarritz, France, where they will likely run a campaign despite reports of public hostility to religion.
Campaigns have also run in other countries such as Georgia and Denmark. In North America, campaigns have spread like wildfire across the nation. It would be a delight to see the same phenomenon in Europe.
In the United Kingdom we noticed that our campaign received a huge boost when we had strong episcopal support for our work.
When leaders take the courage to step out in faith and sign up for a campaign, that's how new countries get involved.
ZENIT: What do you think are the greatest challenges England and other European countries face in the battle against abortion? Are there different issues than those facing efforts in the United States?
Colquhoun: I believe that one of the greatest challenges we face is the apathy and indifference of Christians who are aware of the problem of abortion but not acting to provide a solution to the problem or who perhaps don't realize the difference they can make.
As we've seen in 40 days for Life, Christians can make a huge difference when they do respond to what the Second Vatican Council called an "unspeakable crime."
The beauty of our campaign is that Christians can directly participate in a campaign that sees the tangible result of lives saved, hearts and minds inspired, and even lifetimes of regret avoided.
The basic problem is that we live in a country that has respected the right to life for centuries, but now we have around 200,000 abortions every single year and nearly 7 million abortions since the legalization of abortion in 1967 with little signs of change.
Many children have been told a lie about sexual freedom, without being warned about the long term results of promiscuity.
As a result, teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases have reached epidemic levels. Recent elections saw every single major party favor abortion as Britain continues to pay and promote it around the world.
Much of the national media has taken a position overwhelmingly in favor of abortion, saturating the airwaves with biased information and casting pro-lifers in a negative light.
Some Christian churches have fallen silent about abortion, remaining apathetic or indifferent, failing to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Abortion flourishes because it is hidden from the public eye and the consequences of the culture of death have yet to be fully understood by the public.
When the truth comes out about what abortion does to women, let alone the unborn babies, then the battle against abortion will be over.
In England, abortion is partially decriminalized, whereas a different legal precedence was established in the United States, legalizing abortion in all nine months of pregnancy.
The contraceptive mentality is more deeply seated in Europe, along with a wider secular mentality. We consider all these problems as a challenge and an opportunity for evangelization in equal measure.
[Part 2 of this interview will be published in Wednesday's dispatch]
On the net: www.40daysforlife.com
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