The focus the 2014 Voice for Life National Conference (17 – 19 October) was on practical workshops to encourage more effective branches.
It may sound dull but many delegates described the conference as “inspiring”. This was due to the qualities and themes of the speakers, but also the enthusiasm on display in the Friday evening branch reports.
Delegates were touched by the report from Hauraki branch (Thames and Waihi). Alf Johnston hails from Aberdeen and after 54 years in NZ, his Scots accent hasn’t been affected at all.
He described what happened one Friday morning at the prayer vigil outside Thames Hospital (Waihi members get up early to join the vigil). “A young girl came over and asked us what we were doing. I said that we were here to make people think about abortion.”
“She said: ‘well I’m here with my brother-in-law and sister to get an abortion this morning’”
“I said: Oh dear, don’t do that love. You’re destroying a little baby.”
“She looked at me and then gave me a big hug. ‘You know you’ve just saved my baby’s life.’”
“Later her sister drove up and asked us: ‘what did you say to her to make her change her mind?’ They were mildly annoyed because they had travelled all this way and then she had changed her mind.”
John Kleinsman from the Nathaniel Centre delivered a fascinating power-point presentation on developments in the euthanasia and assisted suicide debate entitled: “Taking stock of the debate: being prepared”.
He covered the hidden dangers in Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill and examined the flaws in the so-called “safeguards”.
There was the story about Professor Theo Boer, an ethicist and key euthanasia proponent in Holland who changed his mind. Seven years ago he argued that a good euthanasia law would produce relatively low number of deaths.
But now, speaking in a personal capacity, he believed that the very existence of a euthanasia law turns assisted suicide from a last resort into a normal procedure.
A ‘slippery slope’ for assisted dying as is proposed in Britain, would mean that euthanasia would follow the same path as abortion, which was legalised in 1967.
John Kleinsman noted that opposition to physician assisted-suicide grows dramatically when people are more informed of the arguments. A new poll has revealed that many people who initially expressed support for assisted suicide, switch to opposing it when presented with evidence from places where it has been legalised.
Saturday afternoon was devoted to practical workshops on a range of topics.
Some delegates stayed on after the dinner to watch the All Blacks triumph over the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium by one point.
In recognition of Fr Quinn’s long service with the Wellington branch and his seven years with Hutt Valley, national president Bernard Moran on behalf of the national executive presented the framed certificate at the conference dinner. Fr Quinn has been a very dedicated, active pro-lifer and chaplain at conferences.
After the delegates singing a rousing national anthem led by Steve Jaunay, Joseph Houghton ran the first workshop on branch growth strategies using the experience gained from revitalising the Christchurch branch and increasing membership.
Brendan Malone delivered what he called The Last Word, placing our cause in the historical context of the small band of student protesters in Nazi Germany called the White Rose. He retold the inspiring story of Horst and Sophie Scholl who attempted to alert Germans to the evil nature of the regime and paid with their lives by being guillotined.
Their lonely struggle was against huge odds, but their Christian faith left them no other option but to resist and name the evil.
The conference concluded with Joan Stephens thanking Steve Jaunay for his efforts in organising a memorable national conference.