Note: This is the second of several reports on League executive director Eric Scheidler’s recent pro-life mission in Germany and Austria. Find his first report here.
Youth for Life after the Berlin March for Life, Sept 17 [Photo by Kris van den Hove]
The evening after the huge March for Life in Berlin, I joined 80 members of the German Youth for Life group at the Singer 109 Youth Hostel for a pro-life conference, moderated by spokesman Matthias Loechner.
The German YFL is a fairly new group, and the conference was intended to inspire them with presentations by leaders from several established international pro-life groups.
Andy Stephenson of the UK branch of the Center for Bioethical Reform spoke about the effectiveness of graphic signs in the fight against abortion. Dries Goethals and Liesbeth Ronsmans of Youth for Life Belgium updated the group on their pro-life activities over the past year, including a new initiative praying at Belgian abortion centers.
Bryan Kemper discussed the momentum growing within the pro-life movement in the United States, and Kate Bryant of Ireland’s Youth Defence shared the achievements of Europe’s most dynamic pro-life organization.
Eric speaking at the Youth for Life conference in Berlin [Photo by Andy Stephenson]
I spoke about the broad range of pro-life activism undertaken by the Pro-Life Action League, offering the Youth for Life a vision of what activism could look like in Germany if their commitment were really to take root. “The abortion industry’s days are numbered,” I told them. “Our days are infinite.”
The only presentation in German was offered by Lina Kogler of Austrian Youth for Life, which has been active since the late 80s, speaking in schools and educating the public. With the remnants of my college German study, I heard Lina exhort the crowd to think of what they would tell their grandchildren they did to stop the injustice of abortion.
A Sobering Walk along the Wall
The next morning our group reconvened after Sunday religious services for a brunch at a Russian restaurant with the curious name of “Bogus,” which presumably has a different meaning in Russian than it does in English—the food was great.
Eric at the site of the Berlin Wall along Bernauer Strasse, facing east [Photo by Bryan Kemper]
After many fond farewells, a small group of us were led by Berlin resident Stefan Friedrich on a brief tour along Bernauer Strasse, a street which was divided by the Berlin Wall from 1961 to 1989. Several memorials mark the wall’s site, including one dedicated to all those who lost their lives trying to cross into the West.
Walking along Bernauer Strasse, I recalled asking my college German teacher back in 1984 if East Germany and West Germany would ever be reunited. His answer: probably not ever, but certainly not in our lifetime. He was wrong, of course.
Reflecting on the end of the great injustice of the Berlin Wall, a radical change totally unforeseen by most experts, gave me a sense of hope that one day, against all odds, the injustice of abortion would end, too.
A Quiet Evening with a Fellow Activist
After our tour along Bernauer Strasse, Bryan and I met up with Klaus Steigert of KALEB (das Kooperative Arbeit Leben Ehrfürchtig Bewahren, or “the Association Working to Preserve Reverence for Life”). KALEB is a member organization of the BVL and the group primarily responsible for organizing the March for Life.
Bryan Kemper, Klaus Steigert and Eric Scheidler outside the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Central Station)
I had met Klaus at the Week for Life in Belgium this past March. He is one of the few professional pro-life activists in Germany, and we had much to share as he treated us to a driving tour of the historic districts of Berlin. Before going to his apartment to spend the night, we dropped by the KALEB headquarters, which had been sprayed with graffiti a few days before, with the English slogan, “My body, my choice.”
I was reminded of the vandalism of my parents’ home in Chicago last December, when a chunk of asphalt was thrown through the window. Everywhere faithful pro-lifers appeal to the hearts of our fellow citizens to make room for unborn children, we face these kinds of attacks.
But their only impact, both here in the United States and across the world, is to strengthen our resolve to end abortion. The international pro-life movement is growing, and I am proud that the Pro-Life Action League is standing side-by-side with our European allies.
Two More Reports Coming
After our time in Berlin, Bryan and I headed to Salzburg and Munich. Watch for these reports in the coming days:
- Meeting with the Jugend für das Leben Österreich (Youth for Life Austria) in Salzburg, Austria
- Praying at the oldest abortuary in Munich—where sidewalk counseling is illegal!