Don’t Be an Observer: Our Generation’s Call to Defend Life

“Continue to overcome apathy, offering a Christian response to the social and political anxieties, which are arising in various parts of the world. I ask you to be builders of the world, to work for a better world. Dear young people, please, don’t be observers of life, but get involved. Jesus did not remain an observer, but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did.” –Pope Francis July 27, 2013

Last week, despite the threat and arrival of Snowzilla, thousands of Americans took to the streets of Washington DC to take a stand against the lethal Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade and to raise their voices in support of women and unborn children. A majority of those who marched for life were millennials. I was among them and as I marched, Pope Francis’ words to young people came to mind. The Holy Father reminded us in a 2013 homily that Jesus was not an observer, but rather he immersed himself in the reality of life. We too are called to immerse ourselves, to be advocates, and to stand up and offer “a Christian response to the social and political anxieties” which we face in our civilization.

The greatest civil rights abuse of our time is abortion. If we are to follow Jesus’ example, we must, as Pope Francis exhorts us, face this reality of life. We know the statistics—around a million children lose their lives to abortion each year. Each number included in this statistic is a child that has lost his or her life. And with each child that has lost his or her life to abortion, there is a mother and a father that is hurting. Grandparents, friends, and extended family suffer as well.

In addition to being a horrific reality at a human level, abortion is also one of the most controversial political issues of our day. It can be difficult to engage with others on such a heated topic. Trust me, as someone who works in the pro-life movement, it isn’t always easy to tell the person next to me on the plane what I do for a living. Yet God has chosen us to live in this time and so we must trust in Christ’s invitation to “be not afraid.” We, the JPII Generation, have been given incredible leaders to guide us as we strive to answer Pope Francis’ call “to be builders of the world, to work for a better world.” We look to saints, civil rights leaders, and Christ himself as models of those who engage and do not merely observe.

Every year on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decisions which legalized abortion across the country, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the March for Life takes place in Washington DC. In a typical year, hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters, with signs showing their support for mothers and children, gather to march to the Supreme Court. It’s an incredible experience to be a part of the longest running peaceful demonstration for civil rights and to be a voice for the voiceless. The March for Life was started by Nellie Gray in 1974. That first year, thousands of people came to Washington DC to march and then meet with their members of Congress to advocate for the unborn. Throughout the years, the attendance numbers have grown, even as advocates have fought the snow, ice, and frigid temperatures of the Washington winter to demand equal protection for the unborn and the repeal of Roe. Americans of every age, race, and religion from all 50 states come together annually to be a heard and to immerse themselves at the very center of political activity – Capitol Hill.

Often times, it can be intimidating or discouraging to join the political fray. We can feel as though our voice is not heard; that we aren’t well versed enough on a topic; or perhaps that we may just not have a natural inclination for public policy. When we feel that engagement is too hard, we can look back for inspiration to those who fought for civil rights in the 1960s. Through countless marches and actions–and in the face of setbacks and even violence – the truth prevailed. What if those advocates had given up? Like them, we must not back down. We must continue to stand for the truth that abortion kills one life and wounds another. We have a responsibility as citizens to demand action from the leaders that represent us. We want our laws to build a country that sees the beauty in each and every life and that protects the weakest among us. The right to life is an inalienable, God-given right, and we will not rest until that is reflected in each law and in reality. All other rights follow from the fundamental right to life. If we do not hold the line here, every other right is endangered.

We are called to bring truth to political life, even if it is difficult or we are uncomfortable. Often times, we get caught up in how busy our schedules are. There is work to be done, exams to study for, a date to go on, a party to attend, or friends to see. There is a place for all of these, but we must not forget the silent holocaust which surrounds us as we live our busy lives.

But what if you couldn’t make it to DC or you don’t have time to track all the issues? No worries. You can still contact Congress, bring truth to political life, and be an advocate. Human Life Action (HLA), a project of the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA), is a grassroots lobbying organization that works in partnership with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Secretariat. HLA, where I work, tracks all of the federal pro-life legislation to make it easier for advocates to stay informed. You can even sign up for action alerts. By staying informed through HLA or similar organizations, if there is a crucial bill or a time-sensitive vote, we can all respond quickly and raise our voices as one to build the civilization of love in law. Together, we—the pro-life movement and the pro-life generation—will be heard! In this crucial time for the rights of unborn children, won’t you immerse yourself in the reality of life and raise your voice?

Katherine Beck is a Field Coordinator for Human Life Action. You can follow @HumanLifeAction on twitter.