The Road Ahead: Reflections from Symposium 2014

One life changed, many lives saved. We are so excited to share with you Alex’s story of finding her passion—and now career—in helping preborn babies and pregnant moms. Alex Sibiga, outgoing co-president of U of G LifeChoice, attended her first NCLN Symposium in 2014 and wrote a blog for her club’s website about the impact that the weekend had on her. Two years later, her desire to help preborn children and pregnant women continues to fuel her: she is currently doing her second summer internship with the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, and in the fall will begin the midwifery program at McMaster University. In her words, “That Symposium changed my life. I’m so glad to look back knowing that the conviction I felt didn’t extinguish.” We’re so glad as well!

Check out her reflections after attending Symposium 2014: True Patriot Love.

The Road Ahead

You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right. – Rosa Parks

A little over a week ago, I spent a weekend in a place that seemed too good to be true, a made-up land perhaps…Actually, as more time passes, the more I feel as though I did just dream up the whole thing.

This Oz that I am talking about is the NCLN Symposium — a pro-life conference, put on by pro-life power-houses, to train and equip members of pro-life clubs on university campuses all across Canada. This was a place where everyone around was, in fact, pro-life and shared the belief that abortion is wrong.

Woah, right?

It was such a great and unusual experience being surrounded by people who feel the same way as I do about abortion and have the same passion as I do to end it. I was in a place where I could openly share how sad I am for the pain abortion causes women, or how angry I am at abortion clinics and their coercive ways used to make ridiculous profit, or how frustrated I am at our culture’s double standard when it comes to human rights. I could share these views openly and everyone agreed and shared similar opinions! Seriously, not used to that.

Being a pro-lifer at a university such as Guelph’s, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to being part of the minority who thinks the littlest of us should have the right to live and that the best solution for an unplanned pregnancy ISN’T to “undo” it. I am pretty aware that this isn’t the general consensus at school. With not a single pregnant student in sight and a Planned Parenthood ad in the section of our survival guides that’s supposed to tell us where to go if pregnant, it seems the culture around me is more pro-abortion than anything…

So as you could imagine, it was a breath of fresh air being at this symposium. I wasn’t in Kansas— I mean Guelph, anymore, and a big part of me wanted to stay there forever. That would be counter-productive though… If you want to change the world, you can’t only surround yourself with people who agree with you. So now we’re back to school, but I’ve taken a lot from the weekend with me, and I hope to hang on to all I’ve learned like a life vest in this stormy pro-abortion sea!

There are three specific things that struck me:

We are human rights activists. There’s a significant group in our population who do not have the rights that they deserve, that we all deserve- the right to live, and this is no different from the other major human rights violations in the past. When some people were considered slaves, it was perfectly legal to deny them their rights to freedom. The law said these humans were not persons. Many people accepted that this was how their society had to run. But then there were those few loud and bold individuals who stood up for them. Those human rights activists took on the struggle and fought the unconquerable battle until it was conquered. It’s no different now. We are human rights activists fighting for what will one day end, and when our grandchildren live in a world where, like slavery now, abortion is unthinkable, and they ask us if we did anything about it, we won’t have to be ashamed about our indifference or our silence.

Being Pro-life is an action. I’ve always thought abortion was wrong, but sometimes I just didn’t think about it, and sometimes I felt like it was just too big of an issue for me to be able to do anything…so I didn’t do anything. I justified this by telling myself that I know it’s wrong, I would never have one, and that’s as far as being pro-life needs to go. What’s wrong with this picture is that being an inactive pro-lifer is believing abortion is killing human beings but letting it go on! I know it’s a huge battle to fight, but we’re 100% sure to lose if we fight with apathy and inaction. The Pro-Life Movement is gaining momentum and everyone has something to offer it! We need social media masterminds, prayer warriors, convincing conversationalists, generous funders, maternal support super heroes, and SO much more. Preborn infants can’t speak or act. But we can. And we must.

Finally, Be courageous and have hope, change is ACTUALLY possible. The biggest thing I got out of the weekend was
HOPE. It’s so easy to get discouraged and think that no one will ever change their mind about abortion, but I learned that hearts and minds are being changed across Canada. Through logical, loving, and honest dialogue many people are realizing the injustice. The CCBR, or Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, is an incredible and gutsy organization that goes out to the streets with the very real images of abortion victims. As alarming as that sounds, a lot of people take those images to heart. Of course people get angry at the display, but then they talk with the CCBR members and come to the conclusion that abortion is in fact taking the life of a person. These conversations aren’t heated debates, like so many of our discussions about abortion end up being; these conversations are rooted in love for all life, and THAT is what changes things. I know this yellow brick road that pro-lifers have to walk is not an easy one, but take courage and love those who are pro-choice, because it’s that courage and that love which WILL change hearts and save lives.

I’m writing all of this not just for you to read and hopefully be inspired, but for myself also. I feel as though the fire I have for this cause is blazing and ready to take on the world, but I know being at university is like placing this fire in a blizzard. This battle is so incredibly tough. Discouragement and apathy are sure to take a swing at me this year, but when they do, I hope to read this and remember that we can’t stop because we’re tired, or because it’s hard. We can only stop on the day every heart and mind believes the truth, and the land of Oz— the land that respects all human life— won’t be somewhere over the rainbow, but right here at home.

And there’s no place like home.

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True Patriot Love

This reflection was originally posted July 2014 by Rebecca Richmond, NCLN’s past Executive Director

True patriot love.

We sing the words in our anthem, yet the word ‘patriot’ rarely seems to enter our vocabulary (unless we’re referring to Americans, of course). But in a society that has euthanasia knocking down the door and fully funds abortion-on-demand, true patriot love is sorely needed.

A few weeks ago, in the $1.00 book bin outside a secondhand book shop, I picked up a book bearing that title: “True Patriot Love,” written by Michael Ignatieff while he was the leader of the Liberal Party. Flipping through the pages, I realized I prefer his prose to his politics.

“People love their country despite a lot of things,” Ignatieff writes. “They love it because they haven’t given up on it. They love it because of its unrealized possibilities. We love our country not because we think it is perfect or even satisfactory, but because we think it can change for the better….We never love a country just for what it is. We love it for what it might yet become. The same is true for the love we bear ourselves. Love is always rooted in hope.” (10)

Growing up, I had a bit of a hope deficiency myself. My deep sense of civic responsibility somehow co-existed with a profound cynicism. I was strongly against abortion but it seemed an insurmountable injustice, and I was just a kid so what was I to do? I thought I loved my country, but in some respects I had given up on it. Perhaps many of us have.

True Patriot Blog memeBut to give up on Canada is to give up on the Canadian men and women, suffering in the aftermath of their abortions. To give up on Canada is to give up on the preborn children who perished from abortion. To give up on Canada is to give up on all the vulnerable who will perish if we aren’t willing to stand on guard for them. To give up on Canada is to give up on all that it could become: a society that truly values and respects each and every human being.

Canada is not a good in and of itself, but a project begun by the Fathers of Confederation in pursuit of a common good for the people under their care. But present injustices violate the common good in profound and disturbing ways, setting before us steep challenges. At every level of government, within civic society, and especially within our own families and communities, we must take up the project and strive towards the Canada that should be, the Canada that will respect and protect each and every human being.

This necessarily includes our work on campuses. Our universities not only contain the age demographic most vulnerable to undergoing abortions, but also are responsible for forming and shaping young leaders who, in turn, shape the culture and the policies of our nation. To move our nation we must first move our own wounded generation from a place of apathy to one of action. We need a generation of patriots.

For, according to Michael Ignatieff, “Patriotism is the sentiment that makes a people demand reform, change and improvement in their country; patriotism is the source of the impatience and anger that makes abuses intolerable, injustice unacceptable and complacency a delusion.”

Yet, Ignatieff was supportive of abortion as a ‘right’, having forgotten to include the need for a true patriot love, one that is rooted in the truth of human life, not merely the politically acceptable.

On July 1st, [149] years ago, the Fathers of Confederation became nation builders.  It’s time for our generation to continue the project of Canada, for our true patriot love compels us to stand on guard for our nation and for each other.

(1) Michael Ignatieff, True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada (Toronto: Penguin Group, Viking Canada, 2009), 10.
(2) Ignatieff, 176.

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Introducing our NCLN Summer Intern, Maria McCann!

We at NCLN are so excited to have Maria McCann join us this summer as an intern at our Toronto office! She will begin her 4th year of her undergraduate degree this summer at Western University in London, Ontario (UWO). She is studying English Literature, French, and Italian. She is passionate about Shakespeare, science fiction, coffee, and every breed of dog known to man. Of course, she is also passionate about justice; in particular, she wants to see the injustice of abortion end in her lifetime.

Maria and her brother, John-Paul
Maria and her brother, John-Paul

Tell us your story and how you became pro-life.

My “pro-life story” began years ago with the birth of my little brother, John-Paul. He was born very prematurely, which caused him to have brain damage and numerous ensuing disabilities. He faces many challenges in his everyday life, as he navigates a world designed for the able-bodied. In spite of (or perhaps because of) his difficulties, he lives every day with an enviable joy.

He has truly taught me that life does not have to be perfect in order to be beautiful.

His very existence challenges the culture of death: a culture that says he should have been aborted before birth…a culture that now suggests that even born people like him are perhaps better off dead than disabled. For all of my childhood and adolescence, I understood the pro-life movement as important for protecting the rights of John-Paul and of other vulnerable people.

How did you get involved in your campus pro-life club?

Near the end of my second year of undergrad, some gentle nudges by the Holy Spirit led me to joining the executive team for Western Lifeline, the pro-life club of UWO. In 2015, several of us decided to attend NCLN’s Symposium, a “boot camp” for pro-life students. The weekend conference turned out to be life-changing for me, learning how to talk to people about abortion with both conviction and compassion.

I was deeply moved by their message that, with 100,000 pre-born babies being killed every year through abortion in Canada, this is not a movement. This is an emergency. That sense of urgency motivated me to engage in weekly activism with Western Lifeline. That sense of urgency motivated me to spend my spring break doing pro-life activism through the Genocide Awareness Project. And that sense of urgency has motivated me to join the staff of NCLN as a summer intern.

Why did you decide to spend a summer working with NCLN?

My experiences on campus have led me to believe that NCLN’s mission is crucial, as students are desperately in need of the pro-life message.

Changing our campuses and inspiring youth today will lead to massive changes in the future, when those young people become the leaders of our society.

On a personal note, NCLN has been a huge support for me over the past year in my work with Western Lifeline, and I want to be that kind of support to other student leaders. I am excited for the projects in store for this summer, such as weekly activism doing clipboarding and Choice Chain. I am eager to help develop new materials that will aid students in the coming year.

Where are you most likely to be on the weekends?

On the weekends, you’ll likely find me checking out thrift stores for vintage tops, or used bookstores to feed my reading addiction. If I’m not at a thrift store or bookshop, I’ll be getting coffee and froyo with friends, or watching reruns of Doctor Who.

If you could be any person in history, who would you be?

I have a pretty specific time and location in mind. I’d love to be a modern-art lover in the early 1900s in Paris. It would be the epitome of cool to sit in a parlour chatting with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso—the cult figures of literary and artistic modernism. I would basically be their groupie.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

I would love to spend a summer touring Italy, especially Tuscany. I have been learning Italian for the past couple years and would like to put my learning into practice. The Italian language and culture are so beautiful, and I want to taste some authentic Italian cuisine! It would also be amazing to see Rome, a city steeped in history.

Send Maria a welcome note! Write to us at info@ncln.ca

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Recap: 2015 NCLN Symposium: Without Exception

Written by Anastasia Pearse, Executive Director

Words cannot express how grateful we are to all the students who joined us over the weekend for our Annual Symposium! We are so incredibly impressed with your energy, enthusiasm, conviction, and commitment to speaking up about this injustice in our country, without exception. Wear your t-shirts with pride and keep the momentum up from the weekend! Know that your passion is contagious, and necessary in order to sustain the Pro-Life Student Movement on our campuses!

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For those who could not attend the symposium, below are some highlights from our speakers!

 

Without Exception: Anastasia Pearse
  • As pro-lifers we know that there are no exceptions when it comes to saving innocent human beings.
  • There are no exceptions when it comes to showing love to all human beings.
  • We must be willing to live a pro-life lifestyle, without exception.
  • As pro-life students on your campus you are: present, you are peers, and therefore you are powerful.
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Talking to the Victims of the Sexual Revolution: Jonathon VanMaren
  • We need to understand the culture around us to most effectively reach them with the pro-life message
  • We are talking to a culture of that sees human beings as a commodity.
  • What does pornography have to do with abortion? It perpetuates the idea that humans can be used.  Objectification of humans leads to dehumanization, which leads to victimization. We have a society whose acts have lead to commodification of the human body.
Talking to Those Who are Ignorant: Josh Canning
  • Three keys to speaking to the ignorant:
    1. Show compassion for their concerns about abortion. Usually a person’s good intentions are involved.
    2. Tell stories. It allows you to empathize together about the persons involved in the story.
    3. Ask questions – get to know their opinion and what they do know.
  • We must develop a heart that is as big as that of those we talk to, but then bigger.
Talking to Those Who are Complacent and Apathetic: Daniel Gilman
  • If we’re complacent we’re empowering a system that slaughters babies.
  • Being pro-life is not a charitable cause. It is an emergency.
  • We need to show the complacent the hope found in action.
  • Give them immediate opportunities to take action!
  • The only reason we’ve had horrific genocides is because good people are doing nothing to stop it.
Effective Conversations: How to Win Hearts and Rescue Children from Abortion: Devorah Gilman, CCBR
  • 3 Goals in pro-life conversations: understand, love & inspire.
  • We live in a society where parents are legally responsible for the ordinary care of their children. What about the preborn?
  • Truth without love is ineffective. And love without truth is a lie.
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  • Ask 4 questions to show that abortion is a human rights violation in any conversation:
    1. Do you believe in human rights? Who gets human rights?
    2. If two human beings reproduce, what will their offspring be?
    3. If something is growing, isn’t it alive?
    4. Doesn’t it logically follow that abortion is a human rights violation because it kills an innocent human?
  • In any difficult circumstance thought to justify abortion, the person you’re speaking to needs to know you care.
  • Steps to effective conversations:
    1. Find common ground.
    2. Use analogies
    3. Ask questions.
  • We must learn to show the truth rather than tell. Show, don’t tell.
Recruiting Your Team: Anastasia Pearse, NCLN
  • Successful recruitment is the result of effective outreach and sustained relationships.
  • Who are two people you can think of right now that you can make a prolife impact on?
  • Too often we focus on impacting “society”, rather than those around us. One person at a time, we can change the world.
  • Avoid the exhausting event syndrome and keep it simple! REV up your campus with Regular, Engaging and Visible activism!
Leading Yourself: Rebecca Richmond, NCLN
  • The only cure for a selfish culture is a culture of selfless individuals.
  • Is what is holding us back from doing activism more important than the message we are trying to share?
  • Your club is more than weekly meetings and activities. Your club is a movement.
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Euthanasia: The Key Issues and Argument: Fr. Kevin Belgrave, St. Augustine’s Seminary
  • The ultimate solution to euthanasia is a renewal of relationship between us and those who are suffering.
  • Euthanasia isn’t about killing pain, – doctors already do that – it’s about killing patients.
  • Euthanasia creates a “duty to die” – people feel coerced to choose to die to let their family carry on.
  • When suffering people want to die because they feel they are a burden, that is a sign that we are not doing enough to support them.
Top 10 Ways to Sustain  Yourself and  Your Team: Clay Imoo, Archdiocese of Vancouver
  • Sustaining yourself and your team is vital for long-term success, avoiding burnout, and growth
  • Give your team members some TLC: Training, Leadership, and Care.
  • Who we are communicates far more eloquently than what we say or do.
  • Ways to keep your team members: build relationships, meet regularly, know what motivates them! Let them know they are making a difference
  • Ways to keep your team members: affirm them, give them a variety of responsibilities, encourage risks, encourage them to grow.
  • Relationships are vital to your ministry. Make them a priority!
  • Clarify expectations: what do you expect from your team? What do they expect from you?
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To see more photos from the Symposium, visit our National Campus Life Network facebook page!
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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.

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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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Without Exception

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Written by: Anastasia Pearse

Hopefully most of us haven’t had an occasion where we’ve needed a lifeguard to save the day – that is, to save our lives. But even without such personal experience, we know one thing to be true about lifeguards: if someone calls out in need of help, the lifeguard won’t call back to confirm his or her identity; a lifeguard won’t be checking IDs or going through a list of questions before mounting a rescue to decide if the person’s life is worth saving. Lifeguards are there to save our lives – without exception.  

We also demonstrate the urgency and importance of saving lives when we clear the road for an  ambulance; we know that there are lives at stake, so we indirectly assist those who are directly assisting the vulnerable – without exception. So many of our societal norms and laws are geared towards protecting the lives of the vulnerable. But unfortunately those of us in the pro-life movement know that there is a gaping exception: how society treats pre-born children.

We’ve seen the inconsistencies in the way people act when it comes to the abortion issue, and we’ve heard the many exceptions that are raised. We’ve been confronted with students who are animal rights activists, students who are involved in the blood donor club, medical students, students who volunteer at the local food bank; students who are dedicating their time to saving the lives of others but who speak out against saving those who are most vulnerable in our society – the pre-born. We’ve heard people state they are pro-life, except for the case of rape. Or if the child will have a disability. Or if they will be born into poverty. So many people pride themselves on their dedication to saving the lives of others. But they have exceptions.

As pro-lifers, we see that there are no exceptions when it comes to saving the lives of innocent human beings. We see the dignity of every human being, and so work to uphold and protect them – without exception. This does not end with the pre-born, but also extends to the lives of all who are vulnerable in our society, and to each and every person we speak to on a daily basis. By our words and actions, we need to affirm their value and worth – without exception.

But 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? We will help at the pro-life Outreach Table, except if it’s in a public space where our classmates  may see us. We will attend a pro-life lecture, except if there’s a paper to complete that we’ve been procrastinating on. We will go to a club meeting, except if our friends are having a movie night that we’d prefer to go to. We act as pro-lifers, except when it does not fit into our schedules or comfort zone.

We want you to be pro-life – without exception. To help you be exceptional pro-lifer student leaders who can overcome these exceptions, we are excited to announce our 2015 NCLN Symposium: Without Exception. The 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. It will prepare you to have productive conversations that affirm the dignity of those we speak to – even when we disagree with them. It will give you the strategies, leadership skills, and motivation you need to overcome those exceptions we place on our own pro-life outreach. So join us for an amazing, life-changing weekend! Applications open June 22nd!

As the summer moves forward, consider how you can make a commitment to being an exceptional pro-lifer. Continue to educate yourself on the pro-life position so you can show how each and every human life deserves the right to life. Challenge yourself to fully engage and give yourself to those difficult conversations so you can show those you speak with that their life has value and dignity.  Make a commitment to participate fully in the activities of your pro-life club so you can work alongside your team to share the message on your campus.

We challenge you to be pro-life. Without exception.

For more information about the 2015 Symposium, click here.

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Symposium Speaker Interview: Maaike Rosendal!

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Maaike Rosendal is a lovely lady that everyone needs to meet. Married to Nick Rosendal, they have two of the cutest boys you could ever see and a new baby girl (!!!). Just as she is patient and compassionate with her own children, she communicates to people on campus with a listening heart and a gentle voice while powerfully bringing the pro-life message to the people of Canada. As Campus Outreach Director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR), Maaike has been influential in changing campus culture across the nation. We are so excited that she will be speaking at the Symposium this fall because now you CAN meet her. We asked her some questions so you can become just as excited as us.

1. Can you pinpoint an event or time in your life when you became extensively involved in the Pro-Life Movement? What convicted you?

It’s hard to think of something in particular since I was raised in an actively pro-life home, but there are two events that stand out for me. The first one was a silent pro-life demonstration which I attended as a teenager, outside of the Parliament buildings in the Hague in my native country of the Netherlands. I remember looking at the crowd around me and thinking, “What if we all stood up for life, every single day?” The second was a prayer vigil outside an abortion clinic, which I went to with my dad and sisters. The commitment of the few doing outreach there and the steady stream of women entering and leaving the clinic left me shaken and more resolved to do whatever I could to stop abortion.

2. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned working for CCBR?

I’ve truly learned the meaning of the saying by Augustine: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” My amazing colleagues and I have seen that when either one of those two components are missing, we are out of balance and things soon go wrong. On the flip side, when we do everything in our power to make a difference while realizing that we are entirely dependent on God and His blessing on our work, amazing things start to happen. It’s a lesson I need to be reminded of on a regular basis!

3. What is the most inspiring conversation you’ve had while talking to a pro-choice student on campus?

The most inspiring conversation I’ve had took place while doing the Genocide Awareness Project(GAP) at the University of Lethbridge. I stood in front of a large display with abortion victim photography when a female student walked past. I asked her what she thought about abortion and she responded angrily, “I will suck a fetus out of my uterus if I want to!” We engaged in discussion about what the pre-born really are. 15 minutes later she said, “Okay, you’ve convinced me that embryos and fetuses are human beings, but why should they have more rights than adult women?” When she had to go, I thanked her for taking the time to talk. She said, “I came here expecting to be yelled at by a bunch of bigots with terrible pictures. Instead, you guys listened and explained humanity and personhood.” And after a long pause: “I’m not sure I can accept the implications yet because that would make me pro-life, but really appreciate the discussion.” It’s humbling, exciting, and inspiring to be part of a change like that!

4. What is your favourite thing to do on a family outing?

We are privileged to have a large conservation area close to our house; Nick and I love to go there with our kids to walk, bike, or picnic, and still plan to camp by the river at some point. One of the things I enjoy the most about it is discovering nature through the eyes of a child; it’s a beautiful experience!

5. Why are you excited to speak at the Symposium?

If you’re a pro-life student wanting to make a difference on your campus, the NCLN Symposium is without a doubt the best place to start. In 2008, attending the Symposium provided me with skills, knowledge, confidence, and connections that helped me run our campus club and engage with fellow students about abortion. I’m excited to now return to the Symposium as a speaker for the second year in a row to provide attendees with pro-life apologetics and practical tips and, of course, to have a good time together!

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Gold Symposium Sponsor: We Need a Law!

We are so thrilled to announce that We Need A Law is our first GOLD Sponsor of the 2014 Symposium!

We’ve been so thankful for their continued support, especially through their resources we bring to campus! Head on over to www.weneedalaw.ca and check out how easy it is to contact your MP about the lack of abortion laws in Canada!

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Gold Sponsor: We Need a Law

If your organization would like to become a sponsor of the 2014 Symposium, please contact Clarissa at central@ncln.ca for more information!

Apply for the Symposium today!

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