Youth for Life NI's 2017 Roadshow: An Immensely Powerful and Joyful Summer Celebration of Life
Youth for Life NI embarked on their third annual pro-life information roadshow from July 26th to August 2nd this year. The roadshow, which visited a wide variety of towns and cities across the North of Ireland, adopted the theme of ‘Love Life’ this year. The decision to brand our comprehensive summer tour of the North around this simple theme stemmed directly from the positive, life-affirming responses we received in abundance on our previous two summer Roadshows in 2015 and 2016. There’s so much tangible beauty to be found in loving life while at the same time protecting life from conception to natural death and we wanted to magnify this particular message this summer.
Our upbeat, lively and dynamic team of young activists aged 17-30 embody the ‘Love Life’ message effusively! This year we visited key locations, Derry city, Armagh, Strabane, Omagh, Enniskillen, Ballymena, Letterkenny, Newry and Ballymena over the course of the week, with daily announcements and live updates on our Precious Life and our Youth for Life NI [a project of Precious Life] Facebook pages. Furthermore, the week was filled with meetings with a collection of local politicians, some of whom even made the incredible effort of coming out and helping our team distribute pro-life information and talk to the public.
Although inevitably we will always provoke a mixed reaction from the public when dealing with such a controversial issue, it is truly incredible just how encouraging the overall response to our summer outreach is year on year. This year was no exception. With the media on a constant quest to polarise this issue as much as possible, and with bias rife particularly in recent months, I was slightly apprehensive about the reaction we would receive when we hit the streets.
Yet I was hopeful knowing that Ireland North and South is a pro-life country and a safe haven for unborn babies and their mothers. The summer is a fantastic window of time for reaching people who would typically be at work and we look forward to the immensely enjoyable week of summer-time outreach all year.
This year, our pro-life tour of the North was undoubtedly one of the best weeks I’ve ever had, if not the best. The seven jam-packed days of pro-life activism were a complete and utter blast and filled with laughs and fun along the way. Although you may question how doing tough pro-life work which challenges people and makes some wholly uncomfortable, is in any way 'enjoyable', believe me, pro-life outreach is indescribably rewarding. There’s no better feeling in the world than knowing you are making a difference, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to you at the time. At the end of the day, we will never know how many people we touched with our message but if we save even one life, it will all have been worth it a thousand times over.
Our pro-life information stall attracted thousands of people throughout the week of the Youth for Life NI roadshow from July 26th to August 2nd this summer. We enhanced the display table with colourful signs emblazoned with pro-life slogans and lots of free sweets, a foetal model set, and different packs of pro-life literature. We were beyond proud to stand with our colourful, positive, hand-made signs as people stopped to read them and lingered as they consumed the simple yet hard-hitting messages. Over 7 days, we gave away almost every piece of literature we had, reaching thousands upon thousands! As ever, we had lots of interesting conversations in towns and cities up and down the North. We did have a few people who went out of their way to tell us things like "I think you should be banned from being here," "it's a woman's right to choose," "how dare you tell me what to do with my body!" and "I can't believe you're showing these disgusting pictures of unborn children in public.” Yet what really stood out in my mind and illuminated the week was the immensely positive reaction we received overall.
Interestingly enough, the majority of the individuals offering the hostile reactions were not prepared to dialogue in a calm and rational manner; we invited those who reacted adversely to talk further and explain why they held the opinions they did. Yet, this group were not prepared to tease out the topic but were only willing to rush up, say or in many cases shout something, and then run off so as to evade being challenged or listening to a reasoned and clear explanation of why we were there. It made me wonder, perhaps that’s why those who were aggressive towards us preferred to run off; they knew deep down that the killing of unborn children is indefensible, the "pro-choice" position groundless, and downright dangerous, ultimately the rationalisation of a guilty conscience, and a total refusal to accept responsibility. It’s hard to coherently stand and defend something that is completely incoherent. This thought gave me and the rest of the team the confidence to know that we are standing on the right side of history regarding this issue.
While we were met with some anger and evident distain by some, this was definitely the minority. We also had many people throughout the week who surprised us. One woman in Newry for instance began a conversation with one of our group saying "Well personally, I believe it’s every woman’s right to choose." The conversation closed with her happily signing one of our ‘Personhood begins at conception’ petitions. This lady ended up profusely rejecting the "pro-choice" position she had held so confidently as false and deceptive. This actually happened repeatedly throughout the week, sometimes twice or more in one day. Another day, a woman who had paid for her sister’s abortion and was incredibly defensive and disbelieving at first, thanked us sincerely for opening her eyes to the truth.
We are bypassing the media and breaking down old-fashioned stereotypes about pro-lifers, I can tell you that confidently, fresh off the roadshow. Our team are addressing major misconceptions about abortion. By the time you finish reading this blog post, an abortion will have taken place across the water in the UK. This is something we all need reminded off, especially when pro-life apologetics gets increasingly challenging here in abortion-free Ireland, currently a country with one of the best records of maternal health globally. I reminded myself of facts like these any time the going was getting tough or on the rare occasion I started to doubt myself.
The roadshow taught me so much more than I could ever have imagined. It galvanised in me a passion to empower others, the unborn child in the womb and the people of Ireland alike, through speaking out fearlessly and publicly. Moreover, it taught me the importance of using compassion to articulate the pro-life message. We didn’t just stand with our posters displaying the reality of abortion day in day out for the poor babies killed by abortion. We also stood there with and for the mothers and fathers affected by the 21st century horror that is abortion.
Yes, you will make mistakes when you step out in public for the very first time to talk about a highly emotive, deeply contentious issue. I know I did. There’s no hiding from the fact that pro-life outreach can be mentally draining, emotionally exhausting and profoundly overwhelming. There were a couple of minor occasions on the roadshow when the work ahead seemed to rise up like a mountain before us. However, life’s mountains are supposed to make us grow, to bring us out of our comfort zones, and prove to us that we can overcome anything. The difficult people, the awkward moments and the penetrating glares were not in the least bit pleasant when we were on the receiving end, but they held their own sense of value and had the power within them to transform and improve us. I can vouch safe to say that every single member of our team became a little more equipped and a whole lot more compassionate over the course of the week through countless one-on-one conversations with strangers. So many people on the street were profoundly happy to see us and we were met with so much more excitement, genuine support and tangible enthusiasm than we ever could have imagined. The complete craic and joy that accompanied us throughout the week was indescribable and bonded the team together powerfully. I can safely say that I have made many incredible like-minded friends for life.
I assure you that through events like the Youth for Life roadshow, hearts and minds are being changed every single day. Through the presence of groups such as Precious Life and Youth for Life NI, more and more babies are being saved from the atrocity that rips them limb from limb. I’m beyond proud to be part of the most incredibly compassionate, lively, dynamic, and supportive team of young people and will take heart from my incredibly encouraging experience on the roadshow.
I write this blog not just to promote our annual roadshow but to encourage you to join us; if you are feeling that you cannot speak up about life issues, if you feel that you are the only person out there who wants to see an end to the killing, if you are feeling disheartened; just keep going because there are so many more like you. Speaking out for the unborn and the countless others who are hurt by abortion is certainly not easy at times but it is so worth it. We must stand together not only to keep abortion in Ireland illegal but also unthinkable, and we are certainly not going anywhere.
Inspired or interested? Please message us directly either on our Youth for Life or Precious Life Facebook page and join us on this wonderful journey to be a voice for the voiceless and a defender of those who are not yet capable of defending themselves. I can vouch safe to say that the joy, fulfillment and friendships you will experience along the way is truly unmissable!