Dialogue Series, Part 3

Poverty, Difficulty, and Suffering

Written by Clarissa Canaria

 

Over one fifth of abortions are reported to be for financial reasons (Guttmacher Institute, 2005). In my years of being a pro-life advocate, this situation has been one of the most common I have heard, with the “logic” being something along these lines:

If a woman is financially unable to take care of a child, both of them will be in poverty. And if both of them are in poverty, both of them will suffer and live difficult lives.

Some people then carry this situation further, saying:

If that’s the case, the child is more likely to be a criminal in future.

We can all agree that having financial issues and being in poverty can lead to some challenges. But the above thinking contradicts so much of what we appreciate and value in the people around us and those we admire: their courage and perseverance in overcoming difficult circumstances.

If we would not accept the killing of born people who are starving in a third-world country, a toddler who’s parents are in a financial crisis, or those living in low-income neighbourhoods because statistics show possible correlations between poverty and crime, why do we use this same reasoning to kill preborn human beings?

Our society has been inconsistent for far too long. We are encouraged to help those who are suffering, by giving of our time and resources to alleviate their pain. We commend individuals who choose to take a difficult path and who have found the strength to overcome their challenges even though it may be hard. Regardless of their background or circumstances, we provide opportunities for people to do good in this world. However, in the case of abortion we overlook these calls to action, discouraging people from taking what may be a difficult path. Promoting abortion in these cases, stating that the preborn would be better off dead, devalues the lives of those who do in fact live in these challenging situations.

I once spoke to a woman who identified herself as being adamantly pro-choice, citing these exact reasons of poverty, difficulty, and suffering to back up her perspective. After asking her similar questions about how we treat born people in difficult circumstances, she said it herself: “In an ideal world, there would be no need for an abortion.”

Killing the preborn child does not suddenly make this an ideal world. It doesn’t eliminate a mother’s financial problems nor does it remove her difficult circumstances. We can only work towards this ideal world when we as a society consistently encourage people to choose the right thing, even when it may be difficult, and help and support those who do. We do this because we know that each and every human life is worth living and has value, and this value is not dependent upon the circumstances we find ourselves in – or the state our world is in.

difficult circumstances meme

 

So in everything that we do, let’s strive to create a world where we affirm the lives of all those around us, helping those who are facing difficulties and empowering them to overcome their challenges.

 
That’s something we can all agree on.

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Facing Smaug

Written by Joanna Krawczynski, NCLN’s Western Campus Coordinator

On dealing with dragons of fear – and making it out alive.

 

Dear pro-life students,

It’s been a solid two weeks since we gathered in Toronto for the Symposium, and I’m back home, going through your evaluations of the weekend.

Many of you wrote that the Symposium quelled your fears, that you came with “tons of uncertainties and questions.” However, you commented that you left feeling “inspired and at peace,” and that “the NCLN Symposium took away all fears… about doing pro-life activism.”

A part of me wishes we could take the credit for your freedom from fear. And while it does take some courage to “whip and nae-nae” in front of strangers, I am sure our spectacular dance moves did not have that much of a far-reaching effect…

So, dear students,  you deserve credit. This was my first Symposium on staff, and throughout the weekend, your hearts of compassion and hands ready to take action were inspiring and motivating.

You remind me of one of my favorite furry-footed heroes (and no, this has nothing to do with the aesthetics of your feet). This past summer, I finally read Tolkien’s The Hobbit. I also watched the movies, and as much as I wanted to love them, I was disappointed, for they left out one of the best parts of the book: Bilbo’s greatest moment.

This moment has nothing to do with riddles or giant spiders. This is the moment when Bilbo is going down into the heart of a mountain through a tunnel that had mysteriously opened just moments before. The dwarves with whom Bilbo had been travelling wait at the door of the tunnel, sending him off down the dark passage alone. The only thing Bilbo and his companions know about the tunnel is that, at some point, the tunnel will end. And that at the other end lies a monster – a dragon named Smaug.

Bilbo enters the tunnel alone, then:

“A sound, too, began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring. This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him.

 

It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”

The cave / La cova (Ferran)
Photo credit: Ferran Jorda

Fear.

While I wish with all my heart you didn’t have to deal with this anymore, the fears alleviated during the Symposium will still come back, in one way or another.

Sometimes it may seem like you are venturing into a dragon’s lair as you step out to engage someone in a conversation, as you meet with your student union, or as you set up for Choice Chain amidst angry hollers.

In times such as these, chew through this question instead of your fingernails, a question with which our former Executive Director, Rebecca Richmond, would challenge us with: is what is holding me back more important than the message I have to share?

I am convinced that these moments in which you press on, despite your fears, are true tests of your courage. Like in Bilbo’s experience.

My challenge to you as you journey this semester: lean on each other, depend on each other, and keep each other accountable. As much as they get good screen time, we are not dwarves, waiting at the back door, expecting a club member to venture into dark, uncharted territory alone. Loneliness is fertile ground for fear. And, as you have probably already noticed, you cannot use fear to dispel fear or to dismantle lies.

So, then, go together. Go together, to share a treasure that is much brighter, much more valuable than Smaug’s mountain of gold: friendship. Go together in peace: you have what it takes to not only face Smaug and make it out alive, but to also rescue lives from out of the flames.

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Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

Written by Anastasia Pearse

Yesterday I went to a presentation by Wendy Davis, hosted by Simon Fraser University. Her presentation was entitled “Walking and Talking: Using your Feet and your Voice to Change the World.” Wendy is the former Texan Senator known for her 11 hour filibuster in 2013, where she attempted to block Senate Bill 5, which placed restrictions on abortions and higher standards on abortion clinics.

Wendy  highlighted how throughout history, injustices were fought by individuals who stood in others’ shoes. For example, it was a court of males who voted to give women the right to vote, and it was white men who gave black Americans equal rights. Victims so often depend on the feet and voices of others in order to have their rights fought for.

whos shoes are you walking in

I agree that in the face of injustice we must stand in the shoes of the victims. But why are we ignoring the 100,000 children who die each year in our country because of abortion? Why are we not walking in the shoes of these victims? Why  are we turning a blind eye to the children being denied their fundamental right to life because of their gender, or disability, or because they may be seen to be an inconvenience to their parents? Why are we allowing the euphemistic terms of women’s “choice” and “reproductive rights” to mask the reality that these women are in fact victimizing their children?

Wendy Davis, we cannot ignore the injustice of abortion and the victims it creates. For we see that abortion does not in fact empower women, but rather victimizes them and their children. It’s time that we walk in the shoes of these victims, and question abortion.

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Overcoming Excuses


We hope you’ll continue running on your Symposium high (and for those who weren’t there you can read this recap!) But we know that reality hits once you get back to school and other commitments. Read this to get some practical pointers and motivation on how you can overcome excuses!

Written by Rebecca Richmond

Excuses, excuses…we hear them, we accept them, we’re irritated by them, we’re even guilty of making excuses ourselves. When it comes to the excuses to avoid pro-life involvement and campus outreach, we’ve heard them all.

In fact, this post was written in response to a suggestion from a student leader to address the topic of excuses in a blog post!

And whether you’ve heard these from yourselves or your friends or club members, the good news is that they’re normal AND they can be overcome. Here are our answers to the top excuses we’ve heard (or made…):

I need to put the priority on school. I just don’t have enough time.

Yes, yes do. We want you to pass your courses with flying colours and go into the world armed with your brains, your degree, and the heart of a nation-changer.

But even if that is your top priority, hopefully you have other priorities in your life still: your health, family, friends, etc. Students across Canada are also putting a priority on the lives of pre-born children and you can too – without flunking out.

There are sacrifices, to be sure, and the sacrifice of time is a steep one. But often, at least in our experience, the issue is not so much the time, but our time-management.

If we start to evaluate our schedules and consider where we put time and into what, we will likely find that, at least on occasion, what we’re spending time on doesn’t match our convictions. The reality is that we always have time for the things we make time for. If our hours with Netflix outweigh our hours of community service, then maybe we need to consider if our priorities match our convictions.

But you don’t have to manage this all alone. NCLN’s staff want to make your work on campus easier. Our resources, training, and mentoring are designed to do just that. Busy students work with our staff each semester in order to impact their campus – without dropping their GPA. (And we have helpful hints for time management too!)

There aren’t enough club members and I can’t do it all alone, so I just can’t do it this year.

Fact #1: There will probably never be enough club members to do all that needs to be done.

Fact #2: The little you do with a few people accomplishes much more than doing nothing would accomplish.

Fact #3: You’ll never attract members unless you actually do something in the first place.

The general principle is: start where you are with what you have.

And there’s so much that can be accomplished when you do! Contact your NCLN Campus Coordinator to help you find little things that you can do that can still have a big impact. There are projects that require practically no prep or cost, no booking, and as many or as few club members as you have – and yet still has an impact AND can help you recruit new members. We’d love to help you get started on them!

I support the cause but I’m focused on sharing the gospel on campus.

There are many good and important groups and causes that people should give time to. But involvement in one doesn’t mean you can’t support another (most if not all students we work with are in that situation!).

If our opposition to abortion – an act that is daily claiming the lives of Canadian children and is funded by our own tax dollars – does not manifest itself in anything except for an ‘I-support-pro-life-but’ statement, then how much does our conviction mean? This is not a charity, this is an emergency.

Maybe you can’t take on a leadership position within the pro-life club, and maybe the club’s weekly meeting is in conflict with another commitment you already made, but there’s other ways you can be an enormous support to the cause on campus:

-Volunteer at a weekly Outreach Table;
-Participate in clipboarding a couple times a month;
-Use your networks to bring friends out to club events.

Just a few hours here and there can be incredibly helpful to the club leadership and to your campus!

I’ll support the cause after graduation.

Unfortunately, abortions are still happening now and therefore our action is needed on our campuses now. Campuses contain the demographic most vulnerable to abortion as well as Canada’s future leaders. We need to be active on campus now in order to make sure these future leaders are well educated, that their hearts and minds are changed so that they can build a brighter future for Canada now and after graduation. We need to be active on campus now in order to reach out to those who may be faced with an untimely pregnancy, for their own sake and the sake of their pre-born children.

The problem with ‘tomorrow logic’ is that tomorrow ‘is always a day away’. If you train yourself now to put off urgent causes until tomorrow, then how will you have the character later to act and speak up?

Our character, our virtue, is formed by our habitual actions, the choices that we make. Our time at university is an ideal time to become pro-life leaders. Now, and not after graduation, is the time to learn the time management skills we need to complete our studies and give time to other priorities in our lives. Now, and not after graduation, is the time to choose to make small sacrifices, to practice courage within a controversial issue, to seek justice and mercy in our nation.

(After graduation is a great time to start supporting the work of NCLN as a monthly donor! Just thought we’d point that out. 😉 )

To reiterate the main points here, this cause is not a charity, it’s an emergency, and we need to match our convictions with action. But you’re not alone in trying to address this emergency: NCLN exists specifically to support you, to help you overcome the excuses you might hear from others (or occasionally feel tempted to make), and to make sure that you can be successful in your club and your classroom.

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Resolve to Reach Out

On butterflies, duffel bags, and the end of info tables

Written by Joanna Krawczynski

 

Okay, I’ll admit it: the idea of campus outreach, like clipboarding and tabling, does get my heart beating a faster out of excitement for these opportunities to reach my peers with the message of life.

Actually doing campus outreach… to be honest, that can get my heart beating for a different reason, racing with the cold determination of nervousness that makes me feel faint. Or nauseous. Or a combination of the two. Either way, I know I’m not the only one (feel free to sing along). However, I also know that if I do not give myself a swift kick in the pants and stop dwelling on worst-case scenarios, I will spend the rest of the afternoon hiding behind my info table or clipboard. And my campus will be poorer because of it.

Rewind a couple months.

It was my first time clipboarding – and we were downtown Vancouver. I was being ignored, misunderstood, turned away, and the courage I thought I had was steadily dwindling. Almost by accident, I walked into the conversation of two tradesmen from Quebec.Your shadows talk while you listenBoth carried grungy-looking duffel bags and wore wrinkled clothes as well as unshaven, though genuine, smiles. The eyes of the younger fellow lit up more often than his cigarette as he talked. The other fellow seemed old enough to be the father of the younger man. The older man’s deep, browned wrinkles told a part of his story that he did not seem ready to share then. His was a fatherly tone, though he was adamant that a woman should be able to abort her child if she will be unable to care for the child after birth. After about a half hour of conversation, I had to run to catch up with my clipboarding crew. But before I left the conversation, the younger fellow stopped me.

“Can I show you something?” he asked. “I want to show you a photo of my son.”

The man’s pride for this little one was unmistakable as he pulled out a school photo of his smiling seven year old, looking smart and bright-eyed. My heart just about melted. The young man shared that he was here on the other side of the country for this little guy, catching jobs to make their ends meet. I went home feeling helpless, torn between feelings of joy for the younger man’s determination to support his son, and sadness for the stubborn resolution of the older man, whose comments conveyed the perspective that children without caring parents are better off eliminated. To follow this logic is to say that it is a greater tragedy to be unwanted and alive, than to be unwanted – and killed. Fast forward about a month and a half. I’m just getting the hang of Vancouver’s transportation system, catching the skytrain home after a day of campus activism. My head is buzzing, trying to debrief the day’s conversations as well as make sure that I get on the right train. As I slide onto the train and carve out a place to stand, the smell of cigarettes makes me catch my breath. There is a pile of beaten-up bags at the feet of a fellow passenger. I lift my eyes, piecing together the baggy pants, layers of clothing, and a salt-and-pepper scruff crowning the unshaven face of a man with deep, browned wrinkles. “Bonjour, Monsieur…!” I greet the familiar face with astonishment.

His eyes wrinkle around the edges as he smiles back, “I did not think that you would recognize me.”

Of course I recognized him, though I was definitely not expecting to see this man, the older tradesman from that afternoon of clipboarding, ever again. The man shared how he was heading back to Montreal after traveling all across Canada for work. The man then paused, motioning to his bags,

“You know, I’ve been here in Vancouver, on the streets. No home or apartment. My sleeping bag is in there.”

SW 3rd Avenue
The duffel bag lay sprawled at his feet. The man glanced back at me and continued, “You know, my kids, I’ve got five of them. My kids, they are all grown up and established. I gave them all I could. Now it is time for me to live my life.”

Hold on. Where are his children now, and why don’t they seem to care that their father is living on the streets? My heart ached as this man shared the story his wrinkles betray.

How did I not see this earlier? His earlier assertion that an unwanted life is better off destroyed came from a deeply personal place, a place beaten up and worn like the baggage at his feet.

I wanted to do something to help this man, to show him his worth, but the best I could do was to learn his name, shake his hand, and wish him well, as we both had another train to catch.

Reflecting on this, I realize that we have an incredible opportunity as pro-life leaders. We have peers who also carry around with them that heavy feeling of being unwanted. Like the student who was abandoned by his father when his mother decided to give him life. Or the girl whose parents remind her daily that she is not the boy they wanted.

But how can we help our peers to see the value of their lives, if we let the butterflies in our stomachs keep us from reaching out to initiate a conversation?

Okay, granted – maybe they don’t have time for a conversation. Are we doing any harm by wishing them a good day?

Brochures and pamphlets are helpful resources to have on hand, and an info table can be an effective background tool,

but there is a reason why we work with student leaders, not printing machines.

In our activism, let us resolve to reach out and, in doing so, touch the heart of another. We have the opportunity – indeed, the responsibility – to encourage our peers to recognize the value of their own lives, to be voices declaring the profound truth that every life is wanted.

Without exception.
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And so begins another year!

WELCOME BACK to another year of school! We wish all students the best as you start another semester of reaching and engaging the culture.

In light of this year’s Symposium theme, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, we want to challenge you to live out a pro-life lifestyle, without exception.

Sometimes exceptions creep in when it comes to our own pro-life activism. How many times have we put conditions on when or where or how we participate in pro-life activities? Whether this means taking part in pro-life outreach, attending a pro-life event or meeting, talking to friends, family, or colleagues about the issue, or donating to a pro-life group or initiative – all too often we act as pro-lifers, except when it does not fit into our schedules or comfort zone. We want to challenge you to be pro-life – without exception.

no exceptions 6

To help you, our NCLN Symposium will equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to defend the lives of pre-born children, in spite of the exceptions people may pose to you, or the exceptions you may create yourself. We hope to see you or a representative from your club at our Symposium!

 

 

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Mind Matters, Love Conquers

Written by Ashley Bulthuis, NCLN Summer Intern

Last week NCLN and Advokate joined efforts to co-host our final BC Summer Semester event: training in how to engage others in open, loving conversation, followed  by Clipboarding combined with Student Life Chain. Through our combined efforts, over 40 participants were able to lovingly share the pro-life message with the local community in Abbotsford, showing them that every life is worth living.

Youth from the Gospel Roads Retreat

Our volunteers were primarily composed of high school students in grades 10-12. Most of them were decked out in purple shirts, with the name of their affiliate organization, Gospel Roads, plastered on their backs. These youth joined our event as part of their social justice retreat; the retreat was geared towards helping high school students serve their local community while raising awareness about various social injustices. The students were excited for the opportunity to put their passion for social justice into action as they showed the Abbotsford community that pre-born humans have rights as well!

“Whom you would change, you must first love. And they must know that you love them.”

To help prepare the youth for engaging the community, Joanna, NCLN’s Western Campus Coordinator, presented about the need to speak out in truth and love, sharing the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “Whom you would change, you must first love. And they must know that you love them.”  She shared personal stories of how conveying the pro-life message with a loving, gentle approach is the most effective way to engage our culture. She provided tangible ways the students could put their passion and convictions into action, encouraging them to do all they can to share the truth. As St. Augustine of Hippo said “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.”

Students participating in the Life Chain part of the event

The participants then spent a fruitful hour of activism on the street. Most held Life Chain signs, conveying the messages that “Abortion Hurts Women” and “You’ll never regret loving this much.” Those who more directly engaged passersby through clipboarding carried themselves with great compassion, empathy and courage; they listened patiently to those they were conversing with and responded in a gentle, loving manner, acting as great ambassadors of the message of truth and love. Their enthusiasm bubbled over from their wide smiles and shining eyes and their joy was contagious.

Clipboarders ready for action!

After the event, every single participant enthusiastically said that they would do this again. Educating our minds with pro-life arguments matters, but ultimately, it is love that wins people over.  In the words of Maya Angelou,

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

Photo credit: Fr. Jim Zettel, SDB

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A Message from NCLN’s New Executive Director

A message from NCLN’s new Executive Director, Anastasia Pearse

After working for NCLN for four years, it’s an honour and a joy to now transition into the role of Executive Director. I’m excited for this opportunity to continue to serve the Pro-Life Student Movement, sharing our life-affirming message alongside pro-life students across the country!

To all the students we work with: YOU inspire ME! I know the campus environment is a hard one to navigate, but you don’t let that stop you from reaching out. I want to continue to help NCLN empower and encourage you in your outreach so together we can better reach these students who are in such desperate need of hearing the pro-life message.

To all our supporters: your spiritual and financial generosity makes our work possible – you are a backbone of our work! Thank you for your encouragement and belief in all we do.

To our NCLN Board and Staff members: it is a privilege to be able to work with such a creative, gifted, and dynamic team. Thank you for the sacrifices each of you makes in order to make our outreach possible.

To Rebecca Richmond: you have been an amazing role model for me the past 4 years I’ve been on staff. You have motivated me with your enthusiasm and dedication to the cause. You will be missed! But I know you will continue to bless the pro-life movement with your talents and knowledge as you pursue your master’s degree in Ottawa.

To each and every one of us in the Pro-Life Movement: we have such a beautiful message of life, hope, and love to share with each person we encounter. Let us continue to work together so we can serve and impact our country as we build a culture that respects and upholds the value and equality of all human life.

 

 

Anastasia first day meme

 

Anastasia Pearse, MA

Director

National Campus Life Network

director@ncln.ca

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