40 Days for Life Is ‘Witnessing to Hope’
An interview with the campaign's Robert Colquhoun, international outreach director for the initiative.
Please could you tell us how the campaign has grown since it expanded across the United States in 2007?
40 Days for Life has been around for 10 years now, and during just this last campaign, we organized prayer vigils outside of abortion centers for an intense campaign twice a year. We’ve now seen more than 10,000 lives reported as spared from abortion from the 500 cities that have participated in 40 Days for Life. These are just the ones we’ve heard about: people who’ve reported somebody who was going to an appointment with an abortion provider who decided not to go ahead and chose life for their child who was scheduled to be aborted. So I’ve had the privilege of meeting about five of those babies who have been saved. It’s a very powerful and emotional experience to actually meet one of the babies scheduled to be aborted. But through the grace of God, through the hard work of many pro-lifers, and through witnessing to hope in a place where there’s very little hope at all, God has used the power to bring transformation to savor life. I’m really excited about the future. Our campaign is flourishing internationally.
You’re getting more and more members?
Yes, more and more people … we’ve already been featured in 30 countries around the world — that is, people who’ve signed up and registered for a campaign. I can just see that growing and growing … more countries are going to be interested, and we’re really going to grow and flourish as an organization. I hope God can use our group very powerfully. It’s a very simple campaign, but it’s very effective and it really works, and you see that from the testimonies of many abortion providers … because we’re putting God really at the center of our work; and through that, many lives are saved, many hearts and minds are inspired. We touch exactly where God wants us to touch the debate: not in judgment, but in a message of hope, a message of feeling and a message of reconciliation as well.
There is an element in the Church, even among some Church leaders, such as the secretary general of the Italian bishops, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, which says they don’t identify with people praying the Rosary outside of abortion businesses. What do you say to that kind of resistance within the Church?
That is a really good question, and there are some people in the Church who are quite resistant. I think many of them can think that you’re [there] in a spirit of judgment, and it’s very easy to misinterpret this work. Standing and praying can be considered by some as quite a confrontational activity, but, in fact, the message and methodology is to be there peacefully, prayerfully and legally. Following those three concentric circles in a spirit of mercy and not one of judgment, the whole point of being there is to show there is love and a community that can help you choose life for your unborn child.
It’s above all a message of mercy?
It is a message of mercy, and I think, if those critics understood that, understood the ethos of being there — that we’re not there with massive placards saying, “Babies Are Murdered Here” and shouting with loudspeakers; we’re there prayerfully, and we’re there interceding for those babies who are scheduled to lose their lives — if people really understood that tone, that approach and that peaceful methodology and the impact that has and also the power of prayer, then those critics would probably be at least less critical, or might be more understanding of the position. So yes, there may be a small number of the Church that is resistant, but if we can communicate that message as powerfully as possible, then, hopefully, they’ll be fewer and fewer.
Are most of your volunteers young people?
We’ve got lots of people who are very young. Our Croatian team here is extremely young; they’re in their 20s, and 30s as well, so that’s a huge sign of hope. They’ve got a huge number of people in North America, in the U.S.A. and at the March for Life as well. So I think that’s been a really tangible sign of hope for people who have been involved in the movement for many decades. There’s been a whole generation of young people coming through. There are new leaders being developed, and if you can provide the tools, technology and training for young people to mobilize them, galvanize people and inspire, educate and equip them, then that will help to see a transfer in the culture, from a culture of death to a culture of life.
- Sept. 6-19, 2015