“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18
This famous passage from the First Letter of John often comes to me in prayer. This may be because my night prayers often follow very long days full of conversations with faithful who fear for the future of their families and their culture.
To be sure, I have been inspired by the impassioned people I meet in this movement of love and mercy around the world. I also encounter many who are tired, uncertain, and overwhelmed by the demands of preaching the Gospel of Life. Much of my work is affirming and reaffirming our brothers and sisters dedicated to this life-saving mission.
Perfect love drives out fear! Go, Jesus says, Be Not Afraid!
Then again, sometimes I also need to be encouraged. Sometimes this encouragement comes from the unlikeliest of places, even from parts of Europe that have been written off by much of the world due to their dark histories. On Sunday I will be traveling to Slovakia to participate in a weeklong mission organized by HLI’s affiliate in Bratislava, led by Dr. Marcela Dobesova. The events scheduled throughout the week are in anticipation of the Choose Life Forum on March 18 and 19, which in turn prepares participants and the community at large for the annual National March for Life on the Day of the Unborn, March 25 – the Feast of the Annunciation.
As with each mission trip, our partners have planned an intense schedule filled with lectures and meetings. I will have the opportunity to speak at two seminaries, give presentations to representatives of pro-life and pro-family organizations in Slovakia; meet with representatives of the Bishops Conference; give two lectures for the Choose Life Forum, and meet with university students in Bratislava.
The primary objective is to stand up for the value of protecting human life for each human being from conception to natural death, and to stand up for the family and natural marriage – one man and one woman open to the gift of life, which is the best environment for the next generation of children to be fostered. Equally important is encouraging politicians to create legislative conditions to protect human life and the dignity of natural marriage.
What I learned during a previous visit, and what many still have not heard, is that the pro-life movement is gathering momentum in Eastern Europe.
Indeed, it is becoming so strong that legislators can no longer ignore it. While most European nations continue to embrace the Culture of Death, Slovakia is rejecting it. The March for Life in Bratislava has grown each year and has had over 80,000 participants.
Eighty thousand. As a percentage of Slovakia’s population, this is equivalent to nearly 5 million people participating for the March for Life in Washington, DC. Can you imagine what this would look like?
Slovakia is peacefully telling Europe and the world that the protection of human life is one of the highest possible values in society, and that leaders should make sure these values are reflected in law and in society.
After decades of oppression, Slovakians are casting aside fear and doubt and trying to make their nation a light shining within the darkness, beckoning others to follow.
Reflecting upon this powerful witness, I am reminded of Saint Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Evangelium vitae in which he challenged every person to recognize his obligation to reaffirm the value of human life within society and the hearts of every individual, present and in the future:
The present Encyclical, the fruit of the cooperation of the Episcopate of every country of the world, is therefore meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability, and at the same time a pressing appeal addressed to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness! (n.5, my emphasis)
When people are looking for victories to measure the success of the international pro-life and family movement, I point them to places like Slovakia and other Eastern European Countries with growing opposition to the contraceptive mentality and its effects of abortion and radical groups seeking the redefinition of marriage. Their cultures and way of life have suffered so much violence that they are no longer deluded by false notions of “progress” that would point them back toward the darkness of socialism and family decay. They have learned that if nothing is done their cultures and history could very well disappear.
We don’t have to accept the drumbeat of the radical anti-life and anti-family trends in our cultures. We can tell them where to put their drum and show them and their agenda the door. If Europe wants to change the current demographic winter and usher in prosperity for its people, then it must respect and protect every life, as well as defend natural marriage.
The people of Slovakia are making their voices heard. What about the rest of Europe? What about us? What will we do?