By Rebecca Richmond
I was new on the job and only a recent grad myself on October 4th, 2010. The NCLN Symposium had just finished and we caught a train to Ottawa to help out Carleton Lifeline as they put on the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP). Well, as they tried to anyway.
My job that morning was to take photos just in case. And take photos I did, recording moments that seem more like a dream than a memory: friends being handcuffed and driven away in police vans.
What had I gotten myself into?
Three years later, as I enter my fourth year on staff with NCLN, I often find myself wondering the same thing. As do, I know, too many students who may not have to face handcuffs, but still have to fight long and hard for their rights on campus.
Since joining staff with NCLN I have worked with clubs coast-to-coast as they face discrimination. This fall is no different. Just one month has passed since school has started and already clubs are fighting opposition.
In Winnipeg this coming Monday, the University of Manitoba Student Union will vote on a motion to ban the pro-life club on campus – University of Manitoba Students for a Culture of Life – because the club ran the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) last week. While the university acknowledged the free speech rights of the students to run the display, the student union members appear to require a bit more education on what freedom of expression entails.
In Victoria the legal representative and former president of the University of Victoria’s pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth, is suing the university because of the censorship of the club’s “Choice” Chain event last winter and the restrictions placed on the club to prevent them from hosting similar events.
And these are just the recent developments. It would take longer than one article to go through everything students went through last year – or even last semester.
So what have we gotten ourselves into?
We’re in a human rights movement, a culture war, a battle for the soul of a nation. We fight for the very principle that holds – or ought to hold – our society together: that human life is valuable and that all humans, no matter what their abilities or circumstances might be, have a right to life. We are counter-cultural and, as such, we challenge our society. When we speak truth, it unsettles, disturbs and offends those who would rather remain in denial. When we speak up, others may try to shout us down or shut us down. It has always been this way; why should we expect any different? But we must also ask ourselves, what cause was won without sacrifice? What victory was secured without a price?
No, it’s not fair. And we will fight for fair and equal treatment for pro-life students. But we do so, or at least the students and NCLN do so, because of the cause that got us into trouble in the first place. When we fight for our rights, we do so not for ourselves, but for those we fight for: the preborn children who are being slaughtered every day in our country and for their wounded moms and dads.
It would be easy to say that we’ll take up the challenge after our education, when we have a steady job and a few more letters behind our name, when we have more time and aren’t constrained by midterms, papers or our course schedule. But we cannot wait until tomorrow when we are presently in such a critically important environment. Being a university pro-life activist might cost us something but I also believe, like Martin Luther King Jr. did, that it is worth the cost.
“Make a career of humanity,” he said, “Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
But ultimately it is the lives on the line that keeps us going when the opposition mounts. It is the witness of friends, like the students arrested at Carleton in 2010, who inspire us. It is the truth awakened in our own hearts that compels us to end the injustice of abortion and build a Culture of Life – starting with our campuses.