Annual LifeChain demonstration bears fruit

Lifechain locations Across Canada HERE

 

lifechainEvery year, when the beginning of October arrives, pro-life advocates of all ages look forward to LifeChain. The demonstration is typically held on the first Sunday of the month. Participants stand along sidewalks at designated public intersections, holding signs bearing messages such as “Abortion Kills Children,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” or “Adoption – the Loving Option.” LifeChain was launched by an American group called Please Let Me Live in 1987. It was brought to Canada by Campaign Life Coalition and quarterbacked by now-Father Louis Di Rocco in 1991.

LifeChain is one of the largest pro-life events in Canada and one of the few that communities across Canada participate in simultaneously every year, Campaign Life Coalition LifeChain committee member Deny Dieleman told The Interim. It has drawn a lot of interest, and borne much fruit, over the last two decades. CLC national president Jim Hughes told The Interim that “the Lord works through the witness of everyone” who participates. He recalled an incident from 1997 involving a woman who came into the organization’s office with her young child. She asked “if we were responsible for the (LifeChain) signs, and said that the child would not be alive” if she had not seen them years before.

Please Let Me Live has called the display “a serious first step” to further pro-life activism. LifeChain coordinators across Canada have certainly noticed this. Brenda Vroom, of Lethbridge and District Pro-Life in Alberta, said that a local grassroots organization called the Abortion Awareness Project has “helped young people to come out to LifeChain, as well as getting involved in their own projects.” (The Abortion Awareness Project’s primary forms of activism are those used by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, including “Choice” Chain.)

Vroom called LifeChain “a great way to meet people. We’re engaging in conversations and talking to college students.” Her organization also partners with journalism and design students from Lethbridge College. The college assigns one young person per year to design ads for Lethbridge and District Pro-Life, as well as print articles and photographs from the group for the school’s magazine.

One of the hardest parts of leading LifeChain each year is getting pastors involved, explained Vroom. With every successful invitation, however, “they’re getting educated.” Still, she said she is happy, “we have many church youth groups that come out as well, and that’s great to see.”

Approximately 300 people come out for Lethbridge’s LifeChain every year, down from a peak of 500 in 1991. The city’s total population is slightly over 93,000. Overall, the public reacts positively. “We get a lot of thumbs up, and thumbs down…what everyone experiences. We’ve had people come up to us and say that our presence convinced them to change their mind.”

Leonie Channon, of the Langley Pro-Life Society, estimated that between 250 and 300 residents of the British Columbian city attend LifeChain. The total population slightly exceeds 25,000. The best part of organizing the event is being “inspired by the turnout, the enthusiasm, and how willing people are to come out and witness,” Channon told The Interim. “As an organizer, you don’t get RSVPs, so you think no one will show up, and then they do.”

The central location – on what Channon calls “the busiest street in Langley” – ensures quite a few responses from the community (how can a location ensure the content of the response?). Channon said that most observers “recognize what you’re saying. They think you’re pretty brave to be such a visible witness (when) you stand in public with your (views) on life and abortion issues. Some are negative, but many show respect for people willing to be open.”

As in Lethbridge, local young people are eager to get involved, and their enthusiasm extends beyond LifeChain. “We have youth that come out from local Christian universities – Trinity Western and Pacific Redeemer – to other events, such as guest speakers. One of our members, Oliver Capko, runs the pro-life club at Kwantlen (Polytechnic University),” Channon said.

2014’s LifeChain will be the second that Halton Pro-Life executive director Elea Hofman has participated in, and organized. About 30 people attend the demonstration, which covers the cities of Oakville, Burlington, Milton, and Georgetown . She was glad to see “people of all ages” and cultures speaking out on behalf of the unborn, and said that her experience made “a huge impact.”

Hoffman told The Interim, “so much pain comes out of this issue, (which) most people don’t realize.” Hofman believes that LifeChain provides “a good opportunity” to take a public stand because “many people are privately pro-life but have never done anything about their views, so they take this opportunity to stand up. It can be scary.”

When participants do face their fears, they find “that far fewer disagree” with them than expected. She hopes that pro-life advocates are “inspired to become more active,” and pro-abortion observers will “hopefully seek out more information and learn about the other position.” Most importantly, said Hofman, “it makes them aware of the issue & gets them thinking. Abortion is not on people’s minds, but this event helps them to see that it is an important issue and that there are people who object.”

For a full list of locations, check the Campaign Life Coalition website and the advertisement on page seven.

Also, a new addition to the promoting LifeChain this year is a Facebook event page, created to attract younger participants. Alissa Golob, youth coordinator for Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim “social media is an amazing way to network people across the country for an important cause. Instead of making young people come to you, social media allows you to go to them in a quick and profound way.”

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