40 Days for Life chairman Matt Britton assured pro-lifers in New Zealand that they are not alone as Lent ushered in the fourth such nationwide campaign to end abortion in this country.
US-based Mr Britton went to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in the first week of March at the invitation of Family Life International NZ to encourage people who believe in life to join the campaign.
“Get out with 40 Days [for Life]. It’s a great place to start in the pro-life community. But it’s a great way to start and frankly, a great way to finish because you’re out there with other people,” he said.
“We are always very peaceful. We have a statement of peace. We never violate the law. We don’t yell or scream at people. We don’t condemn or judge.”
Mr Britton said since the organisation started ten years ago in Bryan, Texas, it has branched out into 645 cities in more than 40 countries with more than 750,000 volunteers worldwide.
“40 Days for Life does one thing: we pray twice a year for 40 days, once in Lent and once in [the northern] autumn or fall for 40 days and 40 nights in front of abortion clinics. We fast and pray and do community outreach,” he said.
He said in the past ten years, his organisation knows of 13,000 babies saved through praying outside the abortion clinics.
The period of 40 days, Mr Britton explained, is significant in the Bible.
He added that it was decided to mark the campaign with a start and an end to give people a sense of organisation and belonging.
“This is our charism,” he said. In the US, Mr Britton said, the group is ecumenical but is made up of about 80 per cent Catholics.
“Catholics are easier to organise because every Catholic parish is pro-life but not every Christian church is prolife,” he said.
FLI NZ communications director Michael Loretz said the campaign is growing in New Zealand as well. He said Dunedin Bishop Colin Campbell supported the campaign with a Mass for Life on the eve of Ash Wednesday.
“People are actually seeing the opportunities to join the spiritual battle where they can and to be out there and offer support to women and pray in front of the abortion clinics,” he said.
Mr Britton stressed physical presence outside the abortion clinics is crucial to the success of the campaign.
“I couldn’t count the number of women who told us that when they drove past and saw the people praying [outside the clinic] they knew they couldn’t go through with it. We were the last line of defence,” he said.
Mr Britton also presented Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn with a book authored by 40 Days for Life co-founders David Bereit and Shawn Carney. The book is entitled 40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done . . . Imagine What He Can Do.
Mr Britton said the organisation also partnered with pro-life pregnancy centres to offer women a real choice for the lives of their babies.