WITHOUT THE RIGHT TO LIFE, OUR OTHER RIGHTS DO NOT HAVE ANY SIGNIFICANCE
Anna Wyszyńska talks with Fr. Peter West – a vice-president for the Mission Human Life International
ANNA WYSZYŃSKA: - Priest is a vice-president for the Mission Human Life International to which John Paul II addresses his words during His visit in the USA: ‘You are doing the most important work in the world’. What were the first steps of Priest in this most important work in the world?
FR. PETER WEST: - I have been acting in the pro-life movement since 1986. At that time I was still a layman. Once I saw photos of babies killed through abortion; I was very moved by that, especially when I learnt how large number of abortions is. I had never heard about death civilisation. These photos were such a big shock to me that I thought that I could not stay indifferent, but I had to act against it. In this way my work in this pro-life movement started. I also think that thanks to it I discovered my priestly vocation. I had been acting in the pro-life movement throughout all years of my seminary studies. After my priestly ordination in 1991, I decided that teaching about the defence of life would be a part of my pastoral ministry. For seven years I had been a parish priest in New Jersey, near New York where I was carrying activity in the defence of life. It was possible because I joined the organisation ‘Priests for Life’. However my archbishop did not give me permission for this activity in the beginning, he gave me his permission for three years after a long time and later he gave me his another permission every three years. My activity was based on visiting particular parishes throughout whole United States with our group ‘Priests for Life’. I visited all 50 states in this way and I proclaimed homilies in the defence of life in hundreds of parishes.
– At present as the vice-president for the Mission Human Life International, Priest is travelling around the world. It may be changing perspectives of looking at problems of defending the unborn life?
– The election of the management of the HLI was last year. F. Shenan Boquet was elected a new vice-president, and I was elected the vice-president. Certainly, from this perspective, the matter of the life defence is seen in a broader dimension, because the situation in particular countries is extremely various. Last year, before I became the vice-president of HLI, I had visited the Philippines, later I was in Costarica, whereas last December I was in Tanzania where I offered my help to our organizations and our coordinator working in Africa. They are in a difficult situation because different international organisations intend to allocate 87 million dollars for promoting abortion in Africa. I met many people in Tanzania who undertook a fight against spreading the death civilisation, and I was trying to help them, by supporting them and sharing our experience with them.
– The activity of the movement started over 30 years ago. What is the present power of the organisation HLI in the world?
– In different countries we have 68 departments of the movement and 39 associations which are doing a great work. We have a common purpose – acting against the death civilisation in our countries. Thanks to our international organisation with its headquarters in Virginia in USA, we help them in various ways. Some of them receive financial help but most of them are financially independent, although they use other forms of cooperation. It is true that because of the present economic situation of the United States, the number of our donors decreased, but the activity of the new president of HLI – F. Shenan Boquet promises new life for our organisation. We are certain that the activity of HLI will develop successfully. We will still be helping our departments and associations in the whole world, because we are family as Human Life International. This term is often used by F. Boquet.
– Are lay people engaged more in the activity for the defence of life or clergy as well?
– These are mostly lay people but I also met many bishops, priests and seminary students who are engaged in various ways. Personally, I try to reach both to lay people and clergy and encourage them to help in any way.
– What does the activity of HLI look like in USA? Is it concentrated on a prayer in the intention of the defence of life, or education or is it a specific help?
– The director of HLI America is Arland K. Nichols – a young layman, full of enthusiasm. In his opinion, the main emphasis should be put on a widely understood education. This year we are also concentrating on president elections in the United States. We want to convince people that they have not only the right but also a duty to engage in the election campaign. The matter of abortion is a basic issue because without the right to life, our other rights do not have any significance. The administration of Barack Obama has a negative attitude towards the Pro-life movement. Therefore, the priority is that all people, who understand what fundamental significance the defence of life has, would take part in elections and vote for the life civilisation. It is very important as while travelling all over the world, I notice a negative influence of USA on people’s awareness in other countries, where abortion, pre-abortive environments and sterilization are widely accessible. Recently the media have loudly informed about strong protests of bishops against the project of the Act concerning compulsory covering costs of sterilization, contraceptives and pre-abortive contraceptives from the national insurance. Later, in the respect for this year’s election and fear about losing the Catholics’ votes, a kind of compromise was suggested but our Episcopate did not agree on any compromise solutions in this issue. We must help people to understand these problems and convince them of expressing their opposing opinions in a brave way.
– On the route of Priest’s travels Poland was included, and exactly Jasna Góra. This visit was connected with the peregrination of the copy of the Jasna Góra Picture of God’s Mother, called the peregrination ‘From Ocean to Ocean’ (more information about the peregrination is in the weekly ‘Sunday’ no 7 of 12 February 2012). What significance did this celebration have for Priest?
– I think that what started in Jasna Góra is an extremely important and wonderful undertaking. It is so important that many people from our movement were wondering: why haven’t we thought about it before? We know that our fight is difficult, we are struggling with spiritual evil forces and therefore we need care and help from God’s Mother from Częstochowa. I know the history of Poland a bit and I know what significant role Jasna Góra plays in the country where millions of the faithful have been arriving for centuries to pray in different intentions. I know what breakthrough happened after pilgrimages of John Paul II to His homeland, what changes took place here and in other countries, which followed Poland. I believe it is possible to happen again with the help of God’s Mother of Czestochowa. I believe that we have many possibilities to overcome the death civilisation. We entrusted this matter into the hands of God’s Mother who will answer our prayers. We will take her image to many countries starting with Russia, through Asia and Europe, to the United States. I think, especially looking from the spiritual perspective that it is an extremely important event. I expect wonderful fruits of the peregrination ‘From Ocean to Ocean’.