Saturday, 10 March 2012

Kent youth rave about SPUC's youth conference

Philippa Forsdike, a leading SPUC activist from Kent and formerly SPUC's vice-chairman, has kindly sent me the very positive reports below from five young people (pictured) she helped to attend last weekend's 5th International Youth Pro-Life Conference, organised by SPUC in Rotherham, South Yorkshire:

Annie Latham:
"I was extremely grateful to be offered the opportunity to be funded go to the SPUC Youth Conference in Rotherham last weekend, what an incredible experience! I have never been to any conferences of this nature before, and didn't really know what to expect, I thought it would be inspiring, but the quality of the talks and the depth which the speakers went into their subjects exceeded all my expectations.

Pro-life issues were covered from many different perspectives, some of which I found particularly unexpected and thought provoking. An example which comes to mind is the talk given by economist Professor David Paton, who clearly showed that even when any moral or religious bias is taken out of the equation, statistics show that pro-life solutions have the most effective results in reducing teenage pregnancy and abortion.

Other speakers who stood out for me included Fiorella Nash, for explaining the irony of how modern feminism can be incredibly damaging to women, and Sister Andrea Fraile, whose compassion and love I found an absolute inspiration. She gave a beautiful talk about the psychological effects of abortion. She understands and explains so clearly how a woman can feel trapped and frightened into taking an action which can effect her and damage her in so many ways. Sister Andrea helps many of these women receive healing and peace through her work at Rachel's Vineyard, she's an absolute inspiration.

Aside from the serious business of listening to all these brilliant talks, we had the opportunity to meet some of the amazing young people attending the conference, including the group from Spain who picked up the guitar at every opportunity and serenaded us with their beautiful singing, as well as their impressive salsa dancing skills!

A special mention also of the contingent from Edinburgh University, who as well as contributing with many excellent and insightful questions, entertained us with their "interpretive dance" at the SPUCs Got Talent show, involving three bath towels and some GCSE German...

Overall it was an incredible weekend, the challenge now is to go forward with this information and make a difference, in whichever way is best suited to our talents, from prayer to fund raising to public speaking. Practices such as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and IVF contravene the basic human rights to life and dignity. We need to go forward in this battle with love and compassion and the strength that comes from knowing that the pro-life standpoint is the perspective of truth.

Thank you to all who were involved in organising this brilliant conference and special thanks to those from our church in Hythe who made it possible for us to attend, by their generous giving of their money and their time."
Sam Forsdike:
"Having been to many SPUC Youth Conferences this one stands out both for the intelligent level of debate throughout the weekend and the inspirational feeling of being amongst so many committed and like-minded young people from around the world. I came away from the conference having armed myself with new knowledge and arguments as well as new friends that I can link up with and work together to promote the pro-life message.

The weekend was a perfect combination of being educated, engaging in stimulating debate and just hanging out with other young people to find out more about their own lives and the pro-life work and initiatives they are involved in. It was fantastic that all the speakers stayed on for meals, coffee breaks and the infamous SPUC's Got Talent so that there were opportunities beyond the lecture hall to speak with them. They were incredibly accessible and keen to answer as many questions as they could and give us advice.

Often, personally and professionally, you can feel alone standing up for the pro-life cause and so attending a conference is an important way of remembering that there are other young people who believe in the same things as you. It's like a shot in the arm that gives you the courage and motivation to keep fighting as well as the conviction that actually you can change things. Listening to the stories of other people who have defeated their student unions over pro-choice amendments or junior doctors standing up against their seniors to have their voice heard gives you the kick up the backside to do it in your own environment."
Roger Crossland:
"Thank you to Philippa Forsdike for taking me to the Youth Conference last weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the conference, I learnt a great deal and learnt how to explain why I'm pro-life. For me the highlight of the weekend was when I asked why men don't have any legal right to any help. Thank to Sister Andrea, I now know there are people out there that can help men too."
Anthony Loader:
"I want to say a special thank you to Philippa Forsdike and her family for organising and putting up with us at the weekend, and everyone behind the scenes who helped with the organising and fundraising. The atmosphere at the conference was spell-binding and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to attend such a life changing event!

I was pleasantly surprised to find so many young people pulled together from all over the British Isles and even further in some cases! One group of talented musicians, dancers and singers had come all the way especially from Spain, showing off their talents at Saturday night’s talent show and landing themselves with the first prize. It was nice to meet people of similar ages and share serious opinions and experiences on the topic of pro-life. It created an unbreakable sense of unity and friendship between us all. “Maybe I’m not alone in this struggle after all?!”

The speakers were extremely passionate and well versed in their subjects, making it a very stimulating and enlightening experience for everyone there. The variety of different ‘walks of life’ that were evident in the personalities of the speakers really shocked me. We had religious leaders, doctors, a feminist, a journalist, an economist and a scientist; to say a few.

There was so much up for discussion that I had never even contemplated; I still can’t believe how much I’ve learnt from the conference. I went with a small exercise book, with the intention of taking a few key notes, and I managed to fill the entire book! It has opened my mind to a whole new approach to pro-life and everything it stands to protect and defend.

Thank you again to everyone involved who helped us go!! I really mean it. Without your hard work and support, the youth group leaders and I wouldn’t have been able to attend this life changing experience. Please find attached, a photo of me with the other youth leaders at the SPUC youth conference. Thank you."
Mike Forsdike:
"Worthy of a Geneva setting and the attentions of a universal media bandwagon, the National Pro-life youth conference had to make do with the drizzly comforts of a hotel on the isolated outskirts of Rotheram. Represented by a host of weary arrivals from across the UK and as far a field as Spain and the Faeroe Islands, the pro-life movement was alive and kicking from the moment of signing in. Ice breakers of plucky individuals attempting their grasp of Spanish or trying to pin point the Faeroe Islands on the map made for a relaxed environment with everyone ultimately sharing the single desire to defend the sanctity of life.

The weekend proved an education and a test for a promising generation of medical students in attendance. For every despair we faced in subject matter we gained the insightful knowledge and motivation needed to fight it's grasp on our society. The horrors of what we are fighting were interspersed by lighter, joyful moments of images of children dancing in the womb, and an abundant lack of shame on show at the 'SPUC's got talent' evening.

The most promising aspect of the weekend which was highlighted during the workshops were the intelligent and thought provoking questions posed by the youth. They are no mugs and refreshingly they will take this world to task. Much of the fact presented spoke for itself, as well as to the hearts and minds of every receptive person.

As someone once said 'society is based on the assumption that everyone is alike and no one is alive'.

The revelation from one Bristol pro-life group that their pro-choice counterparts refused even to debate was understood when confronted by the concise, logical fervor of speakers such as Fiorella Nash, Lynette Burrows and Sister Andrea, to name but a few. Such was the relish, composure and compassion that met every challenging argument of the pro choice stance by the conferences speakers, that I truly began to fear for our opponents. Cornered by Ms Burrows at one point I found myself being pressed on the topic of abortion, "Life is for living don't you think?" I stated trying to appear profound and steer the conversation back to comfortable ground. Her reply simple and succinct summed up the weekend "It's hard to know what else one would do with it".
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Friday, 9 March 2012

Must-read pro-life news-stories, Fri 9 Mar

Top stories:

Ambassadors walk-out of UN meeting over new sexual rights agenda
A large group of ambassadors have walked out of a United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council discussion in Geneva, Switzerland, in protest at a concerted attempt to create new sexual rights. The panel chosen for the discussion was unanimous in its support for expanding universally-accepted human rights norms to include the novel concepts of 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity'. Pat Buckley, who represented SPUC at the meeting, reported: "The ambassadors of the Arab Group and of the Organisation of Islamic States (OIC) walked out once the discussion began. Delegates chosen by the Arab Group and the OIC also walked out after delivering strongly-worded statements." SPUC upholds the family based on natural (i.e. heterosexual) marriage because of its protective effect for both unborn and born children. [SPUC, 8 March]

Fantastic SPUC youth conference paused in silence to remember Tony Bland RIP
The 5th International Youth Pro-Life Conference, organised by SPUC and held in Rotherham, south Yorkshire, was a massive success for the future of the pro-life cause. 140 delegates grew in their knowledge and love of the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the family. On Saturday morning the delegates observed two minutes' silence for Tony Bland who, 19 years ago to the day, was starved and dehydrated to death following a court ruling. [John Smeaton, 5 March]

Other stories:

Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, Spain's justice minister
Abortion
Embryology
  • Adult stem cells beat kidney rejection, claim US scientists [BBC, 8 March]
  • Adult stem cells may treat glaucoma, claim UK scientists [BBC, 7 March]
Euthanasia
Sexual ethics
  • More than half all births in Scotland to umarried couples for first time, statistics show [Daily Record, 9 March]
General
Older stories:
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Thursday, 8 March 2012

Ambassadors walk out of UN meeting over new sexual rights agenda, SPUC reports from Geneva

A large group of ambassadors walked out of a United Nations (UN) meeting yesterday in Geneva in protest at a concerted attempt to create new sexual rights. SPUC, as a UN-recognised non-governmental organisation (NGO), was present at yesterday's meeting. SPUC upholds the family based on natural (i.e. heterosexual) marriage because of its protective effect for both unborn and born children.

Patrick Buckley, who represented SPUC in Geneva, reports:
"The panel discussion had been arranged by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The discussion was entitled “Ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity". The panel chosen for the discussion was unanimous in its support for expanding universally-accepted human rights norms to include the novel concepts of 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity'.

The ambassadors of the Arab Group and of the Organisation of Islamic States (OIC) walked out once the discussion began. Delegates chosen by the Arab Group and the OIC also walked out after delivering strongly-worded statements.

A clear divide was evident between those nations which want to invent new so-called rights and those nations who reject the concept of establishing new so-called rights. There is no international consensus on the meaning of the terms 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity'. The EU, the US, Canada, Australia and some South American countries support an expansion of rights, in contrast to the Russian Federation, most African countries, the Holy See, the Arab Group and the OIC.

Saeed Sarwar, the Pakistani delegate speaking on behalf of the OIC Group, told the discussion:
'The international community only recognizes those rights that are enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which were codified in subsequent international human rights instruments. Thus, we strongly condemn systematic attempts by a group of states to introduce the notion of 'sexual orientation' ...  Our opposition to the notion of sexual orientation also stems from the fact that it may encompass the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts, including pedophilia and incest.'
Time was not given to the Holy See to make a statement. Only non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which support the sexual rights agenda were called to make a statement.

The bias shown by the Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday reflects the Council's ideological commitment to the Western homosexual agenda. We are witnessing the imposition of a socio-political agenda, enforced by UN bureaucrats, on all nations regardless of cultural or other norms. The Council wants to manipulate states into engaging in public propaganda campaigns, in order to achieve its political ambitions to change society according to its own whims and prejudices. There is no fundamental right to homosexual practices."
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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Abortion is the ultimate weapon against women, pro-life feminist Fiorella Nash tells SPUC youth

The second address of this past weekend's 5th International Youth Pro-Life Conference was given by Fiorella Nash (pictured) on the subject of pro-life feminism. Fiorella is a researcher, writer and political assistant at SPUC. She is also an accomplished novelist, wife and a mother of three children. Fiorella's address dovetailed beautifully from the end of Fr Andrew Pinsent's address on human dignity, with a common theme of personalised ethics. Here are some paraphrased notes from Fiorella's talk:
  • Compare Christ's "This is My Body, given up for you" to the pro-abortion "My body, my life, my choice". Any slogan which contains the word "my" no less than three times is morally questionable!
  • Modern radical feminism is opposed to pro-life movement. It denigrates the female body and has a destructively self-seeking agenda.
  • The original feminists would not recognise modern feminism.
  • The original feminists opposed abortion. They held that neither women nor children should be treated as property.
  • A society which allows abortion denigrates and fails women.
  • Radical feminism, in order to justify abortion, ignores scientific evidence and uses delusional language. It is ridiculous to claim that wantedness can change 'a bundle of cells' into a baby! What supernatural power can turns a bundle of cells into a baby  - witch-doctory?! Certainly not an act of the will!
  • The killing of unborn human life has now been accepted as the norm.
  • A pro-abortion woman once said to me: "Logically, you're right - abortion is murder. But it's a murder we have a right to commit."
  • There is a right-to-choose dogma and women who oppose this ideology are bullied. Pro-abortion women describe pro-life women as 'anti-women women'. This is an incredibly insulting and patronising view of women. The suppresion of pro-life dissent by pro-abortion feminism would be considered fundamentalist oppression in any other movement.
  • Support for abortion is praised as 'dispassionate feminist analysis', whereas opposition to abortion is smeared as 'blind obedience to faith' or even 'Stockholm syndrome' among women chained to men.
  • Abortion providers see themselves as acting in the name of women, yet they refuse deliberately to tell women the truth about the nature of abortion procedures. They employ euphemisms such as 'gentle suction, 'remove the pregnancy' and 'products of conception'.
  • How dare the pro-abortion lobby claim to speak in my name or in women's name!
  • Abortion is the ultimate weapon against women.
  • Atrocities involving the deaths of women from abortion are not reported and are covered up. Feminists should be vocal in their opposition but instead give silent collusion.
  • Women sometimes react to revelations about China's one-child policy by saying that it is none of their business. What happened to the universal sisterhood!
  • There is now a serious gender imbalance om China and India, accompanied by an increase in sexual violence, wife-sharing and child-trafficking. Some groups will talk about these problems but avoid the abortion issue.
  • Ann Furedi, one of Britain's leading pro-abortion feminists, has argued that it is necessary to accept the choice of aborting a baby for the crime of being a girl.
  • The maternal mortality crisis is being used to justify abortion on demand. Yet, as several Irish obstetricians and gynaecologists said many years ago, there are no cases in which direct abortion is necessary to save a mother's life.
  • Some feminist voices have been raised against human cloning. IVF was lauded as liberating women, yet women actually bear the brunt of the process. A majority of IVF cycles fail to result in pregnancy. Women are being debased to the level of 'genetic contributor'. The health risks to women of IVF are being ignored. The IVF industry has not done sufficient research into the health risks of IVF to women, even after  30 years of the practice. This shows a callous disregard for women.
  • Among other issues, euthanasia is significant for women, as is the danger of sexualised images in advertising. Prostitution is tolerated or even exalted by the media, even though most prostitutes want to leave, have drug problems, suffer abuse and risk death. The suffering of these women is being not taken into account.
  • The pro-life movement must uphold bodily integrity, considering that women are often more vulnerable than men. We must challenge inflated emotional rhetoric, whilst acknowledging that pregnancy is life-changing and can be difficult for many women.
  • Pro-choice campaigners trivialise the real abuse of women.
  • Women's rights exist for the good of society, and not only for personal justice.
  • Nobody really believes that human beings have no dignity. Ask people who support infanticide: So would you stamp on the face of a new-born?
  • Abortion will not end until women, supported by men, rise up in defence of their unborn child.
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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Fr Andrew Pinsent helps pro-life youth uphold human dignity

The first speaker of this past weekend's 5th International Youth Pro-Life Conference, organised by SPUC, was Fr Andrew Pinsent of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science & Religion. Fr Pinsent spoke in a scholarly yet accessible way on the subject of human dignity, providing some practical tips for pro-life youth when debating the subject. He also asked searching questions of the delegates to help them solidify their understanding of pro-life principles.

Fr Pinsent prefaced his address by saying to the young delegates:
"Thank you for being heroes, in the light of the grave challenges we are facing today."
Here are some paraphrased notes from Fr Pinsent's address.
  • Dignity can be defined as the quality of being worthy or honourable.
  • Our opponents consider their role to be to close us down. We therefore need to understand their arguments.
  • It could said that a person's support for legal abortion is not necessarily motivated by a desire for the act of abortion per se but motivated by a desire for dignity which the person believes (albeit wrongly) will result from abortion.
  • In contrast, some people (albeit very few people), argue against the idea of dignity, sometimes dismissing it as a specifically religious or narrowly Catholic concept.
  • It has been argued that appeals to dignity are too vague and are mere slogans which add nothing to an understanding of a situation.
  • Dignity has a power to move us and to move our will (affectivity). This power is recognised by our opponents, which is why they use it.
  • The law often finds it impossible not to refer to dignity.
  • The concept of 'respect for persons' is closely related to dignity.
  • False thinking about dignity comes in different forms: sufficiency of autonomy; sufficiency of rights; sufficiency of divine command
  • Dignity is irreducible to mere autonomy. For example: Why is it contrary to dignity to use a human ear as an ashtray? Or (if one denies that newborn children are persons) to stamp one's foot on a newborn's face? Principlism, the ethical system devised by Beauchamp and Childress which elevates autonomy, is thus inadequate to defend human dignity.
  • We see evidence of a growing inability of people in Western society to recognise and respect other people's dignity. For example, the recent Bad Samaritan case, in which a young man injured during the London riots was robbed by people as they pretended to help him; the Walmart worker crushed to death by a stampede of bargain-hunters; businessmen who have adopted a principle not to treat people with dignity; the ugliness of modern art and architecture.
  • The NHS is concerned about medical staff not treating patients with dignity, about a lack of compassion there. Yet, when medical staff have to perform so many acts of indignity on patients, it's unsurprising that the dignity of medical staff  is also suffering - e.g. the Glasgow midwives denied their right to conscientious objection to abortion.
  • Judges interpret laws, yet judges are also formed as persons by culture. Today some judges decide cases even before they consider the law.
  • There have been many attacks on human dignity by non-Christian states e.g. Communist regimes.
  • Dignity is not self-protecting, even though people in general agrees that it's a good thing.
  • Dignity does have a power to appeal to the right-hemisphere of the brain, but this metaphoric power can be misapplied,  unsupported or unformed.
  • Natural reason is not sufficient to protect dignity. This is shown by the fact that the number of actions and conclusions regarded as unaccepetable is declining. A problem with a reductio ad absurdum argument is that people are increasingly choosing the absurdum.
  • There is a lack of understanding of cause and effect. Consequences of evil actions don't come home to people.
  • Human understanding - the intellectus, the perception of truth and goodness - is also not sufficient to protect dignity. Images that are themselves unattractive at first sight can lose their unattractiveness; taboos can be broken.
  • Some things need to be recognised as wrong simpliciter; the principle of non-contradiction is breaking down in society.
  • Stories provide examples of admirable lives and show what happens when dignity is stripped out of society. However, narratives can be used in opposite way e.g. the use of films by the Nazis to promote euthanasia.
  • Great violations of human dignity sometimes are largely ignored. For example, the killing of six million people in the ongoing war in the Congo has been almost entirely unreported, even though it has included cannibalism on a massive scale.
  • We need people who treat persons as persons. We need people (like that) in whatever discipline they work in.
  • We need second-person ethics (patiency, I-thou relationships) because third-person ethics (agency) is not sufficient to protect dignity. Natural family planning (NFP) is an example of second-person ethics, because it consists of two people loving together what the other person loves, thus upholding dignity; whereas contraception is an example of third-person ethics, as it is like a business contract and therefore breakable.
  • Avoid cold benevolence and narcissism. Listen to others and read their body language. Find common ground. Avoid ad hominem attacks. Exercise mercy and forgiveness.
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Monday, 5 March 2012

Fantastic SPUC youth conference paused in silence to remember Tony Bland RIP

This past weekend saw one of the best pro-life events I've attended in nearly four decades of service to the pro-life movement. The 5th International Youth Pro-Life Conference, organised by SPUC and held in Rotherham, south Yorkshire, was a massive success for the future of the pro-life cause. 140 delegates grew in their knowledge and love of the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the family. They also had lots of fun, made or renewed friendships, prayed deeply and left with hope for our world. Do see an album of photographs from the conference on SPUC's Page on Facebook (you don't have to join Facebook to see the photos or read the page.)

I'm pictured here with (left to right): Magdalene Soon, Sophie Lawes, Imogen Fell and Lucy Boyles, all from Students for Life Leeds:


And here is what they told me about the conference:
Lucy: "Very informative; I feel far more confident in terms of people questioning me about pro-life issues."

Magdalene: "Very informative and eye- opening to the reality of the culture of death. It is good to know there are support groups that are there to help you."

Imogen: "For me, this weekend has enhanced my knowledge but also gave me a support system whereby if I were to make a point, I know I have a network for information I can access to back it up."

Sophie: "This weekend has revitalised me, and strengthened my resolve to fight for the rights of all vulnerable. Most importantly, it has highlighted to me further that it is not 'if' we can change views, it is 'when', and our coming together can only facilitate this. As a group, I feel we have bonded and are stronger. We are ready to take the next steps in Leeds to make our voices heard."

Thank you SPUC!
In the midst of the conference's intense buzz, we did not fail to remember those who could not be with us. On Saturday morning we observed two minutes' silence for Tony Bland who, 19 years ago to the day, was starved and dehydrated to death following a court ruling. This was particularly poignant, since the conference venue was little more than an hour's drive away from Airedale General Hospital where Tony Bland was killed. A recurring theme of the conference was the need to protect the disabled (Tony Bland was left brain-damaged by the Hillsborough disaster) and other vulnerable groups against lethal discrimination via abortion and euthanasia.

I will be blogging throughout this week with reports of the conference speeches, workshops and social events.

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