Friday, September 17, 2010


A Pro-Life Mission to Southeast Asia

Since its founding nearly four decades ago, Human Life International's people have traveled eight million miles to 155 different nations.  We have a presence in over one hundred countries now, and we train and speak directly to tens of thousands of people every year.

Today the need for HLI's missionary work is greater than ever.  I was reminded of this fact last week as I stared up at the brand-new five-story building in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which houses three of the most aggressive population control organizations in the world -- EngenderHealth (formerly AVSC), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and RACHA, the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance.  I admired the twenty or so sparkling new SUVs in the parking lot, and watched dozens of well-dressed workers walk in and out.

The tens of millions of dollars spent by the population controllers in Cambodia every year is having a profound effect. Forty years ago, the average Cambodian woman had six children; today she has three, and the fertility rate is projected to decline soon to only 1.4 children per family, a plunge of 77 percent.

Cambodia is a classic example of how the anti-lifers create a problem and then dedicate themselves to making the problem even worse. Today, most of the major organs of the United Nations are prominently visibly present in Phnom Penh -- UNAIDS, UNCEDAW, UNDESA, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and many others -- a regular alphabet soup of well-funded agencies all created to "improve" the lives of the people, and all largely dedicated to the promotion of contraception and the eradication of AIDS.

Immediately after the murderous Pol Pot regime fell in 1992, Cambodia was essentially a closed society, with no recorded cases of HIV. But when UN peacekeepers appeared that year, brothels immediately sprang up all over Phnom Penh, and the soldier's appetite for sex jump-started the AIDS epidemic.  Within two years, there were more than 20,000 recorded cases of HIV. At the onset of the UN mission, the head of the peacekeeping forces, Yasushi Akashi, said: "Everybody has the right, even the soldiers, to enjoy the young ladies, and we cannot discriminate against the HIV-positive soldiers."

The country is still a wild place today, with rampant sex slavery, millions of land mines still in place, and even an American-run euthanasia clinic masquerading as a coffee shop (which, thankfully, was recently closed down by the government).

My wife Kathy and I traveled to Cambodia and Thailand to help the Filipino charismatic group Couples for Christ-Foundation for Family Life organize to promote the pro-life message.  Both of these nations are overwhelmingly Buddhist (about 96 percent) and less than one percent are Christian, presenting interesting and unique challenges.  One of CFC-FFL's pillars of activism is pro-life, and HLI has worked with the organization extensively over the years by providing education, materials, training in organization, and other efforts.

The objective was to inform the CFC-FFL members about a range of pro-life issues.  I spoke to ten groups over the weekend in Phnom Penh, including the population control agenda, abortion myths, statistics, and demographic impacts, fetal development, chastity, and how to debate and organize a pro-life group. Everyone received a copy of HLI's Pro-Life CD Library for further study, and we had a lot of discussion time.  On the spur of the moment, the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco (SDB) asked Kathy and I to give evening talks the night before leaving for Thailand.  On our way to their monastery, the roads flooded from the rain, and we left a wake behind us as we slowly made our way there.  I have never seen anything like it. 

The sisters were so encouraged by the talks that they invited us back to talk to the more than 900 teenage girls they teach at their school.  The SDB Brothers teach about the same number of boys, and I promised the sisters that HLI will help them teach their kids about chastity and living by God's plan, even if most of them are not Catholic.

Then it was on to Bangkok to meet with our CFC-FFL friends in Thailand.  Wherever we go, the Filipinos are there to spread the Gospel.  They are truly the "yeast of the Faith."

Thailand instituted a "100 percent condom use program" twenty years ago, and the results have been predictable:  More than 650,000 people have died from AIDS, and half a million more live with the virus.  Thailand has the highest adult HIV infection rate in all of Asia.  Massive UN reports on the situation in Thailand prattle on endlessly about such things as "stigma indexes," while almost completely ignoring behavior change (except for inducing people to use more and more condoms).

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, where condom use has (until recently) been strongly discouraged, there have been less than 3,000 cases of the disease among a significantly larger population of adults.

To summarize, one in seven thousand Filipino adults are infected with HIV/AIDS, while one in seventy Thai adults are infected -- a rate one hundred times higher. The stark difference between these two nations demonstrates the futility of condom promotion as a solution to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

The hardest part of any journey is leaving our fired-up and faithful pro-life friends and returning to "home base."  The second hardest part is sitting on airplanes for nearly twenty hours in seats seemingly designed for some kind of invertebrate creature.  But Kathy and I are both confident that the pro-life mission will flourish in these most difficult countries of Cambodia and Thailand, and Human Life International will be there to help it happen, as it has in so many other countries of the world. 

Finally, we must pass along greetings and a hearty "Thank you!" from our friends in Southeast Asia, who, thanks to your generosity, are receiving the tools to help defend their future, their children.


Brian Clowes PhD
Director, Research and Training Worldwide
Human Life International

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