The greatest challenge in the fight to value and protect human life worldwide is indifference, says one pro-life leader. However, as demonstrated by the internationally-attended March for Life in Rome which on Sunday marked its fourth year, that attitude is beginning to change.
“The March for Life is growing,” said Fr. Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International (HLI). I’ve been participating now for a number of years. It’s great to see the numbers, and to see especially young people, young families, people getting more involved. It’s an exciting time.”
As in past years, there was a strong international presence at Sunday's march, with some 26 countries represented among the thousands of participants.
First held in Rome on Mother's Day in 2012 (having previously been held in other parts of the country on two other occasions), the annual event was modeled from the U.S. March for Life held each year in Washington D.C. Over the past four years, thousands of people of traveled around from around the world to take part.
The inspiration for the March for Life also came from a challenge made by Pope Benedict XVI, Fr. Boquet told CNA. “That’s how the March actually began,” he said: It “was out of a beautiful fruit of Pope Benedict XVI’s call: get into the public conversation. Get into the public square.”
While the international presence at the March for Life in Rome demonstrates the global concern for the unborn, there are still challenges, said Fr. Boquet — who as HLI president is involved with pro-life initiatives worldwide. One of the greatest challenges in the world today, he said, is “a sense of indifference.”
“Because abortion has become legal in so many parts of the world, and that we see even where it’s not legal groups pushing abortion, and pushing the agenda,” he said, “people have just kind of accepted the fact that: well, this is just the way it is. What can we do about it? How can we change the conversation?”
In the United States, for instance, “there has been a whole generation of people “formed inside that environment. To them it’s common, it’s normality, it’s like having a book on your coffee table. It’s just part of the natural conversation.”
“The challenge, really, is to re-teach the language of life. That is the biggest challenge I see globally.”
This year's March for Life began its peaceful demonstration at the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin — best known as the location of the Bocca della Verita, or the Mouth of Truth. The marchers then made their way to St. Peter's Square, just in time to hear Pope Francis “greet the participants in the March for Life” at his weekly Regina Caeli address.
Thousands of people attended the March, Fr. Boquet said, “and it was great to have the Holy Father acknowledge that, and extend his blessing, not only to all the people, but also upon us.”
“That was a confirmation: keep up the good work! Keep marching, keep making that message known.” Fr. Boquet also spoke of the witness that was made by the March for Life itself to non-participating passersby on the streets of Rome.
“It’s wonderful to watch people on the side,” he said, “which is part of the intention of the March: to kind of interrupt people’s normality, while they’re having their gelato, or their cappuccino, and say: hey, what is all this about?”
“It’s an opportunity to engage without engaging. It’s really exciting to see.”