"What were you doing outside the Justice Conference?"
We were delighted to learn earlier this year that the UK’s first Justice Conference was to be hosted in London, 2-3 November, and on behalf of our Brephos project I approached the leaders of the conference in good faith that this might be a much-needed step forward in the Church’s witness for the unborn.
A dialogue full of positivity ensued, but once it was established that there was room for neither stage nor stall at this year’s conference, and I requested a platform for the unborn (whether it was us doing it or somebody else) at next year’s conference: it was at this point that the organisers declared their position:
…I think my response may disappoint you. We are part of a global movement and at that level we have discussed covering the issue of abortion. We have a TJC in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, The Netherlands and now the UK and Norway starting this year, and we have to be very aware of what we discuss in one place, may impact conferences in other countries due to how social media works these days! I'm sure you can appreciate that discussing abortion in those different political climates carries all kinds of sensitivities, so we discuss regularly if and when we are able to do this…
Here are some extracts from my response to them:
I am grateful for your upfront honesty in your e.mail, and I shall reflect the same. All of this is meant in love and with sincere intentions.
You are indeed right that your response disappoints me, but more important is the question of whether it disappoints God. A cursory glance at the Scriptures would confirm that indeed it does.
Of course abortion is politically sensitive around the world. All injustices are; tackling injustice is always politically sensitive. Especially when, as in the case of abortion, we are talking about state-sponsored genocide - and the greatest one in history at that - and one that is so supported or at least tolerated by the vast majority of adult people.
Nowhere in the Bible does it suggest that tackling injustice - or any kind of obedience to the will of God - is to be called off if it is politically sensitive.
When Moses confronted Pharaoh, when Esther confronted the king, when Daniel and his friends confronted the king, when Jeremiah preached, when Jesus declared himself the Messiah, when Paul taught the Ephesians to abandon their idols: it was politically sensitive. And of course when Wilberforce and Clarkson opposed the slave trade, MLK opposed American racism, and so on and so on: the list goes on.
I am reminded of God's words to Jeremiah in Ch. 1: "do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them”.
I shall cut to the chase: it is precisely because you are an international justice movement, with influence in all the countries that you mention, that we find it unacceptable that you refuse to engage the issue of abortion. The justice community that you represent and that will gather in London must not be sheltered from the greatest injustice in human history. If they are not shown it there, they may fairly assume no such injustice exists. Where else does one go to get informed about injustice, if not the Justice Conference? Who will help the unborn, if not the international justice community?
So: I am organising for some friends of mine to conduct a public education display outside your conference on both days. They will of course be peaceful and legal - but they will be as close and as visible to the conference and its delegates as possible. The display will include massive pictures of abortion victims - babies torn apart in the womb at various stages of gestation. This is to make sure that every delegate is made aware of the greatest - and most ignored - injustice in human history - happening on our watch. This is to inform and mobilise much-needed activists. My friends will be seeking to engage delegates in conversation as they arrive and leave.
As you say social media is powerful and we very much hope that the pictures and message will indeed go around the justice community across the world, and we will be making every effort to turn up in person and do the same thing at conferences in other countries where possible.
I am very happy to speak more about why and how we will be doing this.
If you would prefer that we do not do this, there is one alternative (and we would much prefer this): let's do it properly in the conference, on centre stage, with everyone there, in a more constructive and controlled environment.
I hope it is clear that we have nothing but good wishes for you and for the conference and we are thrilled that this is happening and that many important things will be discussed there. It goes without saying we will not infringe on the conference itself or do anything unsavoury or unlawful.
We simply, like Lazarus's friends who brought him to the house of the rich man, want to bring before the people who can help, the most helpless of all people.
Whilst I went ahead as a ticketed delegate of the conference, seeking to observe, learn, and raise the issue of abortion on the inside, our fantastic Abort67 team was on the outside, engaging delegates as they arrived as well as members of the general public.
Here are some live thoughts and reflections from half-way through the conference.
The Abort67 team was full of encouragement from their engagement with delegates and members of the public outside the conference:
“After setting up during Saturday's display a lady approached me. I could tell she was in a rush to attend the conference, but she said: "I fully support what you are doing, and just to let you know: I'm an abortion survivor!" I said to her: "Do you realise that your testimony can save lives?" We will be in touch with her to ask her to share her story so others can find encouragement and gain understanding that REAL HUMAN LIVES are at stake in this fight against abortion.”
“A team member approached a man who had his teenage son with him. The father stated he was pro-life but his son was pro-choice. As the son engaged in conversation with our volunteer, the father asked permission to film the conversation on his phone. After the conversation this young man did a 180 turn and was completely pro-life. We then found out that his father was a speaker at TJC, a TV producer, and university professor.”
"I saw one man looking at the images from the other side of the road. He was staring intently at the banners deep in thought, so I ran across to speak to him. He said he didn't have time to chat as he had to go into the conference, but he said, 'Thank you for being here, it's good that you're here'.”
By the grace of God, we did not let the unwillingness of the organisers become a barrier to our accessing the people of God with the message. In fact, we probably reached more people by being on the outside than we would have done with a stall or an optional seminar on the inside!
But please join us in praying that the hearts and minds of the organisers would be changed ahead of next year’s conference, and also at other Justice Conferences around the world.