As the leaves change color to herald the onset of fall, it’s also a signal that the annual Life Chain event is just around the corner across Canada.
Scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 1, normally between 2 and 3 p.m. (specific times vary according to individual location), Canadian Life Chains are expected to attract tens of thousands of people this year to what organizers hope is the largest event of its kind in the 16 years it has been taking place in this country.
Participants stand in witness for one hour on sidewalks along major streets in larger towns and cities, peacefully and prayerfully holding signs reading “Abortion Kills Children,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” “Jesus Forgives and Heals” and “Adoption: The Loving Option” before passers-by and motorists. Those who are too young, elderly or physically challenged in some capacity are, of course, welcome to participate with the assistance of strollers, chairs or wheelchairs, as the case may be.
“It’s for anyone who cares about the sanctity of life, of whatever faith or no faith,” says Suresh Domenic, Canadian co-ordinator for Life Chain 2006 at the national headquarters of Campaign Life Coalition in Toronto. “It’s also to increase public awareness of the abortion issue and to support, through our prayers, women who have undergone abortions and their babies. We are a voice for the victims and we pray for the conversion of those who promote abortion and that those who have been hurt by it will be consoled.”
More than 30,000 people took part in Canadian Life Chains last year, with more than 15,000 in Ontario alone. It is common to see entire families turn out, as well as many young people and ministers from various faiths. Dominic hopes this year’s Life Chain will have the largest participation yet.
“We get a lot of positive response from passers-by,” he says. “People even stop to appreciate this peaceful and prayerful event. Many clergy come with members of their congregations, which is an encouragement to the faithful.”
In an effort to boost numbers over past Life Chains, “Information is being sent to all Christian churches, as well numerous faith-based organizations and representatives of non-Christian faiths,” says Dominic. The Greater Toronto Area alone is slated to have 39 different Life Chains this year.
Life Chain was founded in 1987 in Yuba City, Ca. by a small pro-life ministry called Please Let Me Live Inc. The initial event saw 2,500 people participate by holding signs reading “Abortion Kills Children” on both sides of local streets. By 1989, Bakersfield, Ca. came onboard to participate, with Riverside, Orange County, Fresno, San Diego and Sacramento joining shortly thereafter.
Canada held its first Life Chains in 1990. The next few years saw the event grow by leaps and bounds, with 373 Life Chains and almost 800,000 participants in the U.S. alone in 1991. The year 1992 saw participation reach just under the one million mark, with Canada boasting 80,000 participants in 97 separate chains.
“It is not an easy thing to witness to the truth of abortion,” noted Suzanne Fortin, a mother and pro-life activist from Ottawa, last year. “The media continue to treat those who oppose abortions as extremists and mindless zealots. However, considering the scope of the evil that plagues our countries, it is vital that pro-lifers speak up, because if they don’t speak up, no one else will.”
Fortin added that Life Chain is an important event because it is a social witness in which pro-lifers can show they are not as marginal a group as some might believe. “We are numerous and our message is important enough to justify a cross-country demonstration,” she said.
Endorsers of this year’s Life Chain include: Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada; Imam Abdul Hai Patel of the Islamic Council of Imams – Canada; Aloysius M. Cardinal Ambrozic, Roman Catholic archbishop of Toronto; Most Rev. Marcel Gervais, Roman Catholic archbishop of Ottawa; Most Rev. Nicola de Angelis, Roman Catholic bishop of Peterborough, Ont. Diocese; Equipping Christians for the Public Square; the Knights of Columbus; Salt and Light Television; the National Campus Life Network; the Toronto Right to Life Association; and Niagara Region Right to Life.
For information on times and locations of Life Chains in your area, consult the internet website at www.lifechain.net. If you don’t have internet access, call your local right to life office or, if you are in the Greater Toronto Area, call Suresh Dominic at (416) 204-9749.
Participants are reminded to pick up their signs and return them to the designated locations (a $1 donation is suggested to help defray costs of the signs), remain courteous to all throughout the duration of the Life Chain, space themselves 8-10 metres apart along the route and not park their vehicles in front of any open businesses or hinder traffic movement or pedestrians in any way.
They should also not leave behind any refuse nor respond to comments or provocation from passers-by or motorists. As the Life Chain website counsels: “Our mission is to stand against abortion – with the solemnity our mission deserves … any misconduct from passers-by should be met with silence, which will convey your inner peace.”