40 days of perpetual ecumenical prayer to be promoted in other dioceses, says organiser.
By Anthony Barich
Unconfirmed reports of couples deciding against abortion have been cited during a 40-day, 24-hours-a-day ecumenical prayer vigil outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brisbane over Lent.
Over 250 people, including Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists and other Christians, attended various stages of the 960 hours of prayer from midnight on Ash Wednesday until Palm Sunday outside the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic on Markwell Street, a major arterial road in Clayfield leading out of Brisbane CBD.
It was planned during the State’s election campaign period, with the State’s incumbent Labor Government seeking an MP to put up a similar bill to the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Bill that forced Christian doctors to refer women onto another doctor who did not oppose abortion.
The abortion debate had also been stirred when a 19-year-old woman was charged last month with organising her own abortion, and the State’s secular media publicised 35 pro-choice protesters lobbying the successful Labor Government to change its abortion laws. No such coverage was given to the 40-day perpetual prayer vigil, despite organisers contacting all local media outlets. The vigil was part of a three-point plan that included prayer and fasting and community outreach, borrowed from the US pro-life movement that has been emboldened since the election of United States president Barack Obama, who is believed to be the most actively pro-choice president in the country’s history.
The initiative, which was so successful in Brisbane it is to be an annual event, is also understood to be active in cities of Northern Ireland.
The Queensland vigil was started by Catholic parishioner Brendan Wong, 33, whose American wife Judith from Pennsylvania got the idea from her mother back in the US.
Mr Wong, a chartered accountant, expected hundreds more but understood the sensitivities due to the timing of the vigil.
He said it was still a unifying event for Christians, with students from Brisbane’s Holy Spirit Seminary, Christian Brothers and local priests attending. Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby and Mr Wong’s parish priest, Brisbane Archdiocesan Chancellor and Canon lawyer Fr Adrian Farrelly, were both supportive but did not attend.
Mr Wong, a father of one with another on the way, said he has “plenty of evidence” that the number of abortions while the vigil was on were significantly reduced, as on many days there were no customers at the clinic.
“We’ve also had a couple of unconfirmed people who didn’t end up going ahead with their abortions, but we’ve been unable to track them down, understandably,” he said.
He said the pray-ers received a mixed response, to supportive passers-by actually joining in to people yelling abuse and hurling eggs at them. “It touched people’s hearts, and we had the full gamut of people reacting to us,” he said.
“I really encourage other cities to start a 40-day vigil. It is surpsisingly easy to organise,” he said. “We don’t just want it to be Brisbane that has done this kind of thing. It’s a growing movement around the western world.”
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