In September 2011, I had the privilege of traveling to Zurich, Switzerland to participate in the March for Life. HLI-Switzerland joined with 11 other pro-life organizations to co-sponsor the March. It was a beautiful gathering of about 1,500 people that brought both Catholics and Protestants together to stand up for life—especially for our disabled brothers and sisters—even in the face of tense violence.
It was a great pleasure to be able to visit those who are a part of HLI-Switzerland. They have done fantastic work to promote respect for all life. In 2002, Switzerland introduced anti-life laws that shocked many pro-life groups. The Swiss Catholic People’s Movement “Pro Ecclesia” stated in a 2010 press release that “… (in Switzerland) at least 10,000 children are killed before birth each year.”
Recently, HLI-Switzerland has been working on a petition to stop a horrible “sex education” program from infiltrating Swiss schools. The petition is trying to stop a number of different elements, including those that influence “sexual orientation,” those that include pornography, and those that include sexual games being taught to the students. The petition has been well received, and HLI-Switzerland has collected about 50 sheets with signatures on them. For these reasons, I was thankful to be a part of the March for Life in Zurich.
Mary Longlois, an American who advocates pro-life issues on behalf of HLI at the United Nations, also joined us at the March. She had only attended a few marches in the United States and was honored to join us in for the Zurich March for Life. She stated, “I am always deeply moved by the capacity of the pro-lifer to extend the love they have for preborn babies to men and women who suffer for having been involved in abortion …”
The slogan for this year’s March for Life was “disabled people also want to live,” which focused on a very specific part of the culture of death’s mentality. A trend within the abortion industry is “pre-implantation genetic diagnosis,” where labs create embryos that are tested for genetic abnormalities. If disabilities are found, the embryos are never implanted into a womb. This is a great violation of life that we wanted to educate people about through the March for Life. At the start of this event, we heard from a professional social worker with achondroplasia (a disorder of bone growth that causes the most common type of dwarfism). By present-day standards, this woman might not have survived. And yet she is not some poor, miserable soul, but rather radiates confidence and joy. It is incredible that some believe people with conditions like hers do not deserve to live!
We also heard from a mother who adopted two Down syndrome children. She proclaimed that life does matter, and it was clear that she loved her children. As they waved from the podium, they won over the crowd’s hearts. Seeing these two people testify for life made me ask the question: Are not the people who push to have disabled embryos destroyed themselves crippled … crippled by emotional anger of some sort? Isn’t that also a real disability?
It was exhilarating to begin the March, which wound through the streets of downtown Zurich for about two hours, with trams, buses, and cars detouring or stopping to make way for us marchers. Shoppers, bystanders, and people in cafés looked on, many showing signs of support by waving or smiling. There were some who frowned at our stance and some who were just curious about what was going on. A wonderful Brazilian-style music group provided us with an energizing drum beat that inspired us as we went along the route. We began with a funeral march, which was shown by people carrying crosses and children’s coffins for the first hour. The second hour, however, was very cheerful and energetic.
Police in Zurich were on hand to control people protesting against the March, and they were needed. Leftist groups from the Revolutionary Federation attempted to disrupt us. Thanks be to God, their intended impact misfired because of the vigilant watch of police. Although the anti-life protestors were out-numbered by pro-lifers at least ten-to-one, police had to take measures to maintain order, a few times resorting to water cannons and tear gas, because protesters were entering the plaza where the pro-lifers gathered, and were behaving in a threatening way.
The police were successfully able to protect the peaceful pro-life marchers from the violent tactics of the protestors. At one point, they even needed to fire petards to hold back the aggressors, who carried banners and yelled hurtful words, trying to provoke the faithful. The left-wing aggressors have yet to realize that their violent tactics only hurt their agenda.
These rioters in no way deterred us. We all continued on our March unconcerned. It was very sad to see protestors try to disband our March with violence, but thanks to the Zurich police they were unsuccessful. A full report of the violence can be read on HLI’s blog, HLI World Watch.
Mary Longlois praised the marchers for their determination to continue forward even against strong opposition. “Zurich was no exception, as over 1,000 prolife people calmly and with dignity braved the taunts and insults of vocal and disrespectful protestors, to listen to the call to protect life and to pray for our opponents in this world-wide battle to stop abortions.”
The rally was attended by people of all different ages. It ended in Helvetia Square, with a reading of the “Charter of Human Life” and an ecumenical prayer service. The March was inspiring and exciting. It was wonderful to see HLI-Switzerland’s involvement in this March for Life. Thanks in part to HLI, there is a lot of energy in Europe for life and family. Pope Benedict is defending European Catholic heritage, and people of all creeds are fighting back against the culture of death. We are not separated by language or culture. We are united in this pro-life cause.