Despite an inclination to avoid the public eye, 40 Days for Life has brought English pro-lifers into the public to pray to end abortion, 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 his own journey to becoming a pro-life leader and the message of encouragement the group received from Pope Benedict XVI.
Colquhoun’s pro-life work is featured in “40 Days for Life: True Stories from the Movement that is Changing Hearts and Saving Lives One Prayer at a Time,” set to be released in mid-January. The book commemorates the 40-year anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United States.
Part I of this interview was published in Tuesday’s dispatch.
ZENIT: Americans are known for their “can do” approach to the world while Europeans tend to be more tempered in their approach. Has this difference been visible in your work with 40 Days for Life?
Colquhoun: In England we sometimes joke that Americans like to emphasize size, hard work and productivity.
British people like to do everything in moderation with courteousness, reserve and embarrassment.
Much of our culture is about saving face, saying sorry and having a stiff upper lip. This brings challenges when organizing such a public campaign.
Kristina Cooper, one of our volunteers, emphasized this point when she said that she felt uncomfortable about demonstrating, and even awkward, but was challenged by our vigil.
She felt convicted that if you believe that children are being killed, you can’t just say that pro-abortionists can believe what they think and pro-lifers can believe what they think.
In the future, just like with the Holocaust in the Second World War, people will say why did you stand by and let this happen? Our vigil has helped people who have pro-life views but did not know how to express them publicly to actively do something positive to help.
ZENIT: How did you get involved in the pro-life movement and your eventual involvement in the 40 Days for Life campaigns?
Colquhoun: I first realized the huge importance of pro-life work after listening to an abortion talk at university given by Lord Alton.
The talk included graphic images of abortion and until that point I was relatively unaware of what was happening to unborn children in our country.
I spent a year volunteering as a youth minister with National Evangelization Teams in Canada.
It was during that year that I saw a 40 Days for Life campaign conducted in Ottawa that I had my first experience of a campaign. It was inspiring to see so many people praying in the street.
However, it was listening to a talk by the founder of 40 Days for Life, David Bereit, that I came to believe that God was calling me to start our first campaign in London.
ZENIT: There are new pressures upon Ireland and Poland to legalize abortion. From your vantage point, how likely is it that this will happen and what can be done now to help prevent it?
Colquhoun: It has just been announced that the Irish government intends to legalize abortion in certain circumstances by repealing the legislation that makes abortion a criminal offence.
There have been attempts for many years in Ireland to change the law. I could not speculate on the certainty of the current attempt at legislation being passed, but could affirm the courageous and tireless witness that many pro-life groups in Ireland have given in recent years.
A recent prayer vigil in Dublin saw 10,000 people tell Enda Kenny to keep his pro-life promise.
The Irish bishops have spoken clearly of the urgency of the current situation, sending campaign resources to every parish.
John Paul II said that prayer united with fasting is the most powerful force in human history.
When we are confronted with a change that constitutes a great evil, spiritual weapons are a vital contribution in addition to all other efforts to protect the lives of unborn children from conception to birth.
With God all things are possible, and with prayer it is possible to move mountains: uniting our will with the will of God, we can bring great transformation by building a civilization of love and a growing awareness of the humanity of the unborn child.
Q: I hear you have had some encouragement from Rome. Can you tell us about that?
Colquhoun: We wrote to Pope Benedict at the beginning of our campaign in August 2010.
We were delighted with the polite and cordial response from one of his secretaries, promising the Holy Father’s prayers for our work.
Our first campaign started just days after his visit to the UK, which was a blessing for us as we were able to distribute 10,000 flyers during the papal events in London and Birmingham.
This helped to get our campaign off to a flying start!
Q: What is it about 40 Days for Life that is different from other efforts that have been tried before to turn the tide away from the culture of death?
Colquhoun: 40 Days for Life has a vision to access God’s power through prayer, fasting and peaceful vigil to end abortion. When the Body of Christ unites together for a focused campaign, amazing things begin to happen!
This year I had the joy of meeting some of the children who have been born as a result of our prayer vigils, a truly incredible experience!
I believe the most beautiful aspect about 40 Days for Life is that it is a visible sign of the love that exists in communities to help women choose life for their unborn child.
Abortions don’t happen in the parliament, they don’t happen in law courts, in media newsrooms or schools, they happen in the local community.
By highlighting the location where abortions take place in the community, 40 Days for Life is able to be a solution to the crisis of abortion.
By focusing on abortion as a local problem, 40 Days for Life can help bring new people into pro-life efforts for the very first time, train leaders, get prominent news coverage, not to mention lead men and women into proven healing programs and provide hope in a place where there is little or no hope.
And that’s where change begins to happen and we see God’s grace in action.
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Part 1 of this interview: http://www.zenit.org/article-36292?l=english
On the Net:
More information: www.40daysforlife.com