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BOSTON — In the shadow of the figures of great American revolutionaries, over 150 people gathered for the 32nd Annual Interfaith Assembly for Life in Faneuil Hall Jan. 16, for an afternoon of prayer, song, speeches and exhortations designed to bolster pro-life supporters.
The rally, held every year on the Sunday before the March for Life in Washington D.C., featured a variety of speakers, including as Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, State Representative Philip Travis, D-Rehoboth, and Ray Flynn, former ambassador to the Vatican and president of the group Catholic Citizenship.
"We are not here because we love babies or because we love mothers. We love life, and we recognize the sanctity of every human life," asserted Peg Whitbread, president of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL), the group that sponsored the rally.
“This culture of death denies that God is the sovereign giver of life,” said Whitbread. “We are here to renew our own commitment against this onslaught” of attacks against life, specifically abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research.
"We also are here to remember those women who succumbed to this culture of death," she continued. "Women, who in their attempt to destroy their own children have had their own lives destroyed. They are as much a victim as their children who will never be born."
On Whitbread’s request, the assembly observed a minute of silent prayer for those women. “May God give rest to their souls and grant them pardon and peace,” she prayed.
Archbishop O’Malley, an avid supporter of pro-life issues, emphatically spoke out against “abortion, euthanasia and the unethical experimentation of embryonic stem cells,” which he called “crimes which no human laws or governments can legitimize.”
Quoting from a 1998 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement entitled “Living the Gospel of Life,” the archbishop said, “As we tinker with the beginning, the end and even the intimate cell structure of life, we tinker with our own identity as a free nation dedicated to the dignity of the human person. When American political life becomes an experiment on people rather than for and by them, it will no longer be worth conducting.”
"Business as usual will not do, and we need to begin with the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill,'" he declared.
Perhaps the most compelling speaker of the day was high-school junior Danielle Beck, a student at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston.
"I want to talk to you today about the importance of life," she began, " and I want to urge you to continue paving the road for my generation, so that I may be able to walk and pave for the generations after me."
"Passing on pro-life values and beliefs is not only priceless, but desperately needed," Beck continued. "Being politically correct is seemingly important to many people. They say that having the right to a choice is the most important thing."
"Murder, in my world is not politically correct," she stressed.
Beck spoke of the importance of teaching the following generation the importance of being pro-life in order to continue to protect life.
"With science advancing and population and the ill-politically correct disease spreading, it seems impossible to change the world," she acknowledged. "But one person at a time will make a difference."
Following her impassioned speech, several speakers addressed of the challenges the pro-life cause faces on the political front.
"The storm is on the horizon," said State Rep. Philip Travis, D-Rehoboth. "My job is more important today than it has been in 46 years of public office."
Travis spoke of the power individual voters have when dealing with politicians. “Hold their feet to the fire and make them listen to you, and if they do not, tell them you will not vote them into public office.”
"Forget is there's a Democrat of a Republican at the end of their name," he stressed, "hold them accountable."
With many observers agreeing many voters cast their ballots last November based on values, former Boston mayor Ray Flynn said he is “convinced we will see a new day in our country.”
Flynn remarked that voters this election voted less “on behalf of political identity” and more on behalf of “the political causes” facing the country.
"It is far more important for me to be a good American and a good Catholic than for me to be a good Democrat," he underscored.
"There is a shifting in the conscience of America," noted keynote speaker Rev. Clenard H. Childress Jr., pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church and national director of Life Education & Resource Network Inc. The Life Education & Resource Network is the largest African-American, evangelical pro-life ministry in the country.
"[Americans] are now seeing that they have been lied to" by "the media and Hollywood and the entertainment field," he said.
Childress believes the shift occurred when “MTV invaded our living rooms” during last year’s Super Bowl half-time show when singer Janet Jackson exposed herself on live television.
That shocking display, coupled with the prevalence of same-sex couples “slobbing on the steps of the Statehouse on the six o’clock news” caused many people to take action.
"There is now genuinely and truly a battle for integrity in our country," he said.
According to Childress, “the sanctity of life and the sanctity of the family” have become “the civil rights cause of our time.” He believes that the pro-life movement will include more and more African-Americans in the near future.
"These are messages that transcend culture and race," he said. "If we can't come together based on the sanctity of life and protecting a baby about to be born, then we can't come together on anything."
According to Childress, “there must be a change in consciousness in our nation” before Americans can “demand a change in our laws.”
Speaking of the disastrous effects abortion has had on the African-American community in this country, Childress remarked that three out of every five African-American women have had abortions.
Referring to what he considers to be a “holocaust and attack on the womb,” Childress mused, “I don’t know how many African-Americans know that one-third of us are missing because of abortion.”
He also noted that the term “pro-choice” is not original to supporters of abortion rights. During the 1800s, the term “pro-choice” was used to describe those who, although they personally had no slaves, supported the right of others to “choose” to own slaves.
"I'm a law-abiding citizen," Childress said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., "but I cannot abide by an unjust law."