By Rebecca Downs, FCRH ’12
My last year at Fordham is coming to an end. I know this is because Respect for Life week has just passed. As an active member of Respect for Life, such a week has always been one of my most eagerly awaited and exciting weeks here at Fordham.
Sure, Respect for Life week is not exciting in a way that is typical for university students. It is a special when the club is able to engage, interact with and educate the campus. While our events and themes have differed throughout the years, one thing that remains the same: each year is our Cemetery of Innocents flag display and the candlelight vigil. Like other displays across the country, our flag display features 3,700 flags, to represent the 3,700 abortions that happen on any given day here in our own country. There is constant watch over the flag display by members of Respect for Life. This is to make sure that the flag display is protected, but also in hopes to engage with members of the Fordham community who pass by our display.
Some reactions have been supportive, but there have also been negative and even hostile reactions. Even on a Catholic campus, this is to be expected. I do not mind people arguing with me. I am proud to stick up for my beliefs, which I hope to share even when disagreeing with someone. I also hope that even if someone disagrees with me, that they may still listen and consider even just part of what I have expressed to them.
Last year and the year before that, hostility came in the form of Women’s Empowerment holding their own event, by attempting to ‘Complicate the Issue.’ The group tables in McGinley to discuss how ‘empowering’ abortion can be. I remember last year coming into McGinley and witnessing, as tears came to my eyes, a life-size paper cutout representing a young woman, a Fordham student at that, who was empowered as a result of her abortion. Though I did not know this student and her name was not given, I still said a prayer for her.
We all know that The Paper is no stranger to mocking College Republicans, Respect for Life and the overall conservative and pro-life movements. Their April issue, however, decided to poke fun at the activities of Respect for Life week, by creating a Respect for Life bingo board, in order to help the campus get through the week’s events. The Paper never fails to turn to sarcasm, as it did so with such an issue.
I am all for civil discourse and freedom of speech, even when it can be disheartening at times. I have expressed other forms of discouragement during Respect for Life week as well. My first year, someone likened me to domestic terrorists who blow up abortion clinics. Last year, I was told that I must hate women for supporting such a cause. And this year, I had the experience of engaging in conversation with someone who was very set on shaking my beliefs. Yet I will not now or ever let such experiences break me down or make me ashamed for standing up for what I believe in. Despite the solemn nature of what the flag display may represent, I also remember the good times of staying up all throughout the night to guard the flag display, where I am amongst friends.
While I am sad to leave Fordham and my share of participating in Respect for Life Week, I am sure that the future members of Respect for Life will do their part in spreading a culture of life and love on campus, and hope that they may be successful in changing hearts and minds while doing so. I will look fondly back on my own memories and I wish Respect for Life the best of luck and give them my prayers for next year and the years to come!