Over 600 students from high school and university spent the day after the 10th National March For Life at a pro-life youth conference. It was designed to educate, motivate and equip attendees to leave the conference ready to bring the message of pro-life to their communities, schools and personal lives.

The May 11 conference was held at the Hampton Inn Conference Centre in Ottawa. Campaign Life Coalition teamed up with the National Campus Life Network to ensure needs were met for the participants.

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, gave a motivational address in the morning to welcome the participants. His passion and conviction for life issues were contagious. Students said that after listening to Pavone, it is impossible not not be inspired.

The high school session, following Pavone, was led by Stephanie Gray, co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (ccbrinfo.ca). She demonstrated how to defend the rights of the unborn through easy-to-grasp concepts in her Pro-Life 101 apologetics presentation. Theresa Minten, a Grade 10 student from St. Christopher Secondary School in Sarnia, Ont., said, “The videos she showed us were very informative.” Her schoolmates were inspired to “bring the message of pro-life and the truth about abortion to (our) fellow students.”

Meanwhile, university students listened to Faytene Kryskow, from MY Canada (4mycanada.ca). She used the analogy of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in relating to our battle for the unborn. Vimy Ridge was won through the strategic use of the air force and ground troops. In the pro-life movement, our air force is prayer and our ground troops are our actions, she said. Rob Allen, a second-year psychology student at York University, recognized her message as “our call of duty to change the social fabric and culture of Canada.” Cara Benninger, a second-year biological science student at Guelph University, was inspired by Kryskow and was reminded of “the strength that we have as youth.”

The producer and actor of the award-winning movie Bella addressed the attendees. Leo Severino, producer, and Eduardo Verastegui, actor and co-owner of Metanoia Films, spoke to the youth of their work with the movie and gave their personal testimonies. Severino said the movie was for pro-life supporters to take and use to promote the message of life to those who do not yet understand or agree with the pro-life position. Bella is an example of how the media can be used for creating the culture of life. Verastegui, aside from causing the females in the room to swoon (he was voted by People en Espanol as one of the “50 most beautiful people” in the world), shared his heart as he went from a popular soap opera actor in Mexico to a pro-life, faith-filled man who will only use his talents to promote life-affirming messages.

In the afternoon, the university students began a session with Gray. She decided to do some Pro-Life 201 with the students, since the majority seemed to have a handle on the basic apologetics. Pro-Life 201 dealt with answering more philosophical arguments from people who concede the unborn are human beings, but not persons, or are considered persons but still can be killed.

Gray noted three key points in her talk. First, when debating with someone, ask her questions that force her to explain her statements. Benninger liked this suggestion: “This way, it is a dialogue, which people are more open to, rather than a one-way conversation which will more likely frustrate them or cause them to stop listening.” Gray also pointed out that any transformation will have tension, because no one will change their strong beliefs without grappling with the information first. Finally, we must be students of history, which will help us understand and challenge the beliefs of today.

Meanwhile, the high school students heard from Kryskow, who highlighted the importance of prayer and action. Her success stories of talking with multiple MPs in a very short time with other young people from across Canada was inspiring and challenging. An overwhelming message was the power young people have to make a difference, simply because of their youth. She challenged the students to make their voices heard – by talking to their MPs and exercising their right to vote. Minten said, “She made me realize that just because I am only one person, that it doesn’t mean my voice doesn’t count. I have the power to stand up and change things.”

After long bus rides, a day on the Hill and a late night at the Rose Dinner, the conference was long, but fruitful. The youth who attended were assured that they are not alone in their schools; students across Canada believe in the right to life for all human persons from conception to natural death. The conference provided inspiration and information to act on the convictions that there must be justice for the unborn.