Slovakia is one of several countries that will be holding 40 Days for Life vigils for the first time from September 28 to November 6.

Martina Bednarikova will be leading that campaign ... and she conducted a short question-and-answer interview with Robert Colquhoun, 40 Days for Life's international outreach director, concerning the 40 Days for Life mission and what Slovakians may come to expect this autumn.

Here are some excerpts from that conversation.


MARTINA: You decided to start the 40 Days for Life campaign in the UK. What was it that made you bring 40 Days to London?

ROBERT: After personally witnessing a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in Ottawa, Canada, I felt that God was calling me to start a local campaign in the United Kingdom after seeing and hearing about the power of prayer and the power of personal witness. After seeing some of the YouTube videos in the summer of 2010, I felt that God was calling me to lead the first ever campaign in London, and I?ve never looked back. Many people do not go to church in the United Kingdom, but there are bountiful opportunities for doing pro-life work.

MARTINA: How come you are working as International Outreach Director for 40 Days for Life?

ROBERT: I spent two years working as a local leader for 40 Days for Life starting in Autumn 2010 in London. Our campaign was so successful that it began to spread around the country to new locations as more and more people were inspired. Eventually the abortion centre closed in central London where our vigil had been after 3,000 hours of public prayer. More and more international locations kept on applying to lead a campaign, so I took on the new role in October 2012 when invited to take on a newly-created job. It has been an exciting adventure and I have travelled to over 15 countries in three years.


MARTINA: What in your opinion makes a campaign that is essentially American in its nature successful in a European context? What is it that makes 40 Days so successful in the UK?

ROBERT: 40 Days for Life is not essentially American in its nature. It is a simple and effective model that can be implemented anywhere. Some might argue that it might be more suitable for an American audience because abortion centres are so widespread in the United States with radical laws. What makes 40 Days for Life successful is that it is based on prayer (turning to God in a spirit of healing and repentance) and also community organising. St Augustine says that we should pray as if everything depends on God and work as if everything depends on us.

What makes 40 Days for Life so successful in the United Kingdom is that we are able to reach abortion minded women where they are, and offer a message of hope and alternatives. We don?t judge people, we don?t condemn but we reach out to where they are and how God can work through their circumstances. 40 Days for Life is a volunteer model, taking prayer to the place where abortions happens. Our mission is to save lives, inspire hearts and minds and impact eternal souls. It is a model in which ordinary people can personally participate in saving lives from abortion. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

The United Kingdom is a heavily secularised environment where there are a large number of abortions. A small number of Christians, as a creative minority, can do a tremendous amount of good and we have seen hundreds of lives saved from abortion outside of abortion centres. Thousands of people have shared their stories because we have been there to listen to them. Abortion is a global crisis but you can save lives right where you live.


MARTINA: Please share your personal experience with the first-ever UK campaign. What were your impressions?

ROBERT: Our first ever campaign was an amazing experience. I thought the campaign would be a failure and nobody would attend. But I was completely wrong and over 1000 people came to pray in over 500 hours of public prayer. We saw six women change their mind and not go ahead with an abortion - those were just the ones we heard about. We had a launch party of 100 people and many young people got involved with pro-life activities for the first time. It was an experience of intense joy, and growing confidence among Christians in our country. Many people disagreed with us in the street and were very vocal in their criticism - even organising a counter-protest event. Even a student hall of residence nearby were praying during the campaign - and at that point I realised how powerful the public witness of Christians was. It was a powerful and life transforming experience for many people who will never forget praying outside an abortion centre for the first time.

MARTINA: How did you get the people involved? How have you promoted the campaign?

ROBERT: Pope Benedict visited the United Kingdom in 2010 just a few days before our campaign started. We distributed 10,000 flyers at the central London event. We had two public events to announce the beginning of our campaign and wrote to all the churches in London. We had a campaign team of 6 people help manage our efforts and people from all round the country came to pray outside the abortion centre. Many people in the country were pro-life but did not have a means to express that. We provided the means in which they could express their pro-life sentiments peacefully, prayerfully and legally. We were extremely outgoing with promotion because we knew if we weren?t we would not have a proper campaign. Typically the response rate can be 1-3% for a new initiative in terms of inviting people and personal invitation in churches was the most effective way to get people involved.


MARTINA: Were there any difficulties? On the other hand, what kind of positive moments did you experience during the first campaign?

ROBERT: There were many challenges. We received abuse on almost hourly basis from passers by mostly of a verbal nature. Some people complained to the police who were obliged to attend. Some students poured buckets of water over our volunteers. The abortion workers were particularly rude and aggressive. The national media wrote stories and ridiculed and misrepresented the witness. But none of these shenanigans distracted the prayer volunteers from their peaceful, prayerful and legal witness and as a result lives were saved. Pro-abortion groups wrote the most inaccurate fairy-tale stories against us and counter protests were organised. Our signs were stolen, cyclists would deliberately ride in an aggressive manner and in one instance horse dung and eggs were thrown at our volunteers. None of these problems were overwhelming, however.

The positive moments by far outweighed any of the more difficult experiences. We literally witnessed people change their minds and not go for an abortion in front of our eyes regularly. We saw random passers-by share powerful personal testimonies about abortion. We saw post-abortive policewomen cry about their abortion experiences. We saw young people come alive in their faith and grow spiritually as a result of participation in the project. We saw new leaders develop. We saw Priests witness for life and preach powerfully about abortion. We saw Churches come together in unity and different denominations work together for the cause for life. We got positive media stories from biased media outlets. We helped men and women into proven post abortion healing programs. We helped new people to begin pavement counselling for the very first time. We saw individuals personally transform as a result of being involved in the initiative.


MARTINA: How can volunteers benefit from taking part in the campaign?

ROBERT: Many people say that they grow spiritually as a result of being part of the campaign. For some people they are going out of their comfort zone praying in public on a controversial issue, but afterwards they say that it has changed them and now they are more confident, worry less about what other people think, and have grown closer to God as a result of their prayers. Some people have met their future husbands or wives and made new friends as a result of being involved. Other people have developed leadership and team building skills and developed their pro-life experience and knowledge. For some volunteers, they learn that abortion is not just an abstract issue but a reality that happens in their own community. Through sacrifice and service, personal witness is a powerful way to serve the poorest brothers and sisters who are in the womb but do not have any rights. One volunteer in the USA turned up and on the first day the medical waster truck pulled out of the abortion centre and he came to realise the gravity and full horror of abortion.

MARTINA: Why in your opinion is it important to take such a clear stand and pray outside a hospital/abortion clinic? Why should people take part in the campaign at all?

ROBERT: It is important to pray outside a hospital/abortion centre because it the place where abortions are happening in the community. It sends a message to the community that there is love out there that can help you choose life for an unborn child. It can powerfully affect the consciences of other people (the abortion workers, women in crisis pregnancy and public). It is important to pray where abortions happen as it sends a clear sign of the injustice that happens there. As Christians we are called to be a voice for the voiceless, to rescue those being led to the slaughter and speak up for those who cannot speak themselves. Public witness is extremely powerful and leads to many opportunities to speak to people and change hearts and minds. Outside hospitals, many doctors who disagree with abortion are grateful for the public witness which can also be an expression of their personal views.


MARTINA: What would you like to tell people in Slovakia? Share with us your words of encouragement, please!

ROBERT: My experience is the campaigns who follow the model, tone and ethos most closely are the ones that receive the biggest spiritual blessings. Go for it! God cannot be outdone in generosity. Imagine one woman in need, who you can reach out to and help during this autumn. Imagine meeting a baby saved from abortion who you helped with God?s grace and the bravery of the mother. Be bold in asking for great things and trust in God. Work as reservoirs of God?s grace and be in a state of grace to do pro-life work. Be bold in asking everyone to get involved, and don?t be afraid. Have trust in your witness, the power of prayer and with God all things are possible, including the ending of abortion. You have a wonderful country, and with your witness, you can bring miracles and extraordinary moments thanks to your public witness.

Robert Colquhoun, Director, International Campaigns

Robert is based in London, where he led the first 40 Days for Life campaign in England. He now assists local leaders coordinate 40 Days for Life efforts in nations as widespread as Australia, Brazil, Croatia and South Africa.