Written by Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director
In July of 2009 I rushed through the blistering 40 degree+ African heat to my dorm room, pulled out my little Netbook, settled on the extremely hot concrete patio in order to access the wifi, and registered for the NCLN Symposium. I was probably one of the first students to register for the annual training event that takes place at the end of September, but I wasn’t going to take a chance. I had to be at that event.
I was about to enter my fourth year at the University of Ottawa and I had been pressed into service late in the previous fall as club president after our former club president switched schools. It had been one of the most challenging years of my life. I’m not sure if the other club members realized it, but they had a not-so-fearless leader. I was petrified, particularly as we prepared to put on an abortion debate that February. I was petrified to the point that I had two mild panic attacks in the week leading up to the debate, and I hadn’t had a panic attack since high school (and haven’t had one since). The abortion debate had turned out to be extremely successful and we had been able to continue activism throughout the rest of the summer, but I wanted more training as I entered my fourth year. Yes, we had grown the membership substantially and had a large and robust team of leaders, but guess who was to be president again?
And so, when registration opened, I registered. I didn’t know my schedule yet, I didn’t know if I’d have midterms around that time or large papers due and I didn’t care. I would make it work because it was important. Our Vice President had come back from the 2008 Symposium energized and better equipped, bringing resources, knowledge and good contacts to share with all of us. It was my turn.
Yes, it was hard to plan that far ahead, especially considering I was halfway around the world. But my time in Africa had solidified further my commitment to the pro-life cause (as well as my awareness that I am not designed for hot climates…).
I was in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia (a small north African nation wedged between Libya and Algeria) for 5 weeks studying the Arabic language (and speaking more French than Arabic, to tell the truth). We were in class all morning, studying all afternoon, walking about in the cool of the evening, and exploring on the weekends. Twice we boarded the train to visit the city of Carthage, an ancient city literally layered in history.
During the first visit we stopped at the Tophet Sanctuary, a site where evidence of Phoenician child sacrifice has allegedly been found. I recall standing there thinking of the children that had lost their lives in that very place. Everyone was aghast at the thought of child sacrifice, and I couldn’t help but think of Canada, where child sacrifice or murder would never be acceptable – but unrestricted abortion can happen (and be funded fully by taxpayers).
The Phoenicians had built Carthage but the city was razed by the Romans, who then built their city on top of it. The Romans, the historical record shows, abhorred this child sacrifice and yet, not too long afterwards, I stood in the very amphitheatre that Romans had watched and jeered as men and women, young and old, were viciously torn apart by savage beasts. I was struck at the disconnect that the Romans exhibited. I was even more disturbed by the disconnect Canadians experience between the rights of born and preborn children. I knelt down and grasped a handful of dirt, letting it trickle back down through my fingers. I sat there, in the very place where St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, two young women – one of whom had just given birth – died rather than back down from their convictions.
All of a sudden the problems that occupied my mind all too much seemed very small. The extreme heat, having to pay to use woefully inadequate bathrooms, and struggles with dehydration, the occasional fever, and being sick 3 of the 5 weeks were inconveniences at best. And, more importantly, the problems of being pro-life at university paled in comparison to the bloody drama that had unfolded on the ground upon which I stood.
My heart full, I registered for the Symposium. I wanted to be better equipped to overcome the obstacles, and I wasn’t disappointed. You might not know your schedule, you might not know what assignments or midterms you might have around that time, but I know you can do it. If you are looking to make a difference at your university, to be equipped as the leader that you are being called to be, then take the first step today. Register for the 2013 NCLN Symposium.