Dear HLI Family,
With his recent pastoral visit to Benin in Africa, Pope Benedict XVI brought attention to a continent that remains full of hope despite the threats to its families and culture which seem to grow by the day. The Holy Father chose Benin as his destination in large part because of its historical importance as a foothold of Christian evangelization, which spread into its neighboring countries some 150 years ago.
His pastoral visit will certainly "arouse an atmosphere of hope for the African Church, and be an encouragement to the continent of Africa as a whole." But the author of the 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi ("Saved in Hope") also certainly intended his visit as a sign of encouragement and challenge to the whole Church and all people of good will.
Encouragement for the continent of Africa as a whole is a sorely needed. As with the Philippines, Ireland, the nations of Latin America and so many others, the Culture of Life in Africa, so deeply interwoven with the spread of Christianity, is being threatened by the promoters of "family planning" and population control groups, whose main desire is to limit the number of births worldwide, at any cost. Sadly, they are succeeding.
Laws protecting Life are still strong in many African countries: Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Lesotho have all held strong against the population control juggernaut. But we have also seen the fall of nations like Togo, Ethiopia, Zambia, South Africa and most recently, Kenya. The number of countries with exceptions are growing as the pressure from groups like the United Nations, Population Services International (PSI), USAID, Family Health International (FHI) and the Population Council push their anti-life agendas. Now the small country of Lesotho is in their sights.
Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa, whose laws support abortion on demand. Statistics reveal that in 1975 the average Lesotho family had 5.8 children. Today the figure hovers around 2.8, and is projected to drop below the replacement level of 2.1 within the next ten years. This drastic drop is largely due in part to the ceaseless work of population control groups who have spent $115 million on Lesotho since 1990.* Imagine the amount of force being leveled against the people of Lesotho, of whose 2.2 million citizens 80 percent are Christian. How can a country under such siege survive?
The people of Lesotho need our assistance, both spiritual and temporal. We need to awaken pro-life leaders, diplomats, politicians and people of financial means to heed Lesotho's cries for justice. They are the very ones Jesus addresses in the final judgment account of Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 25). The power of corruption has waged war on a defenseless people whose average life span is 60 years, and whose poverty makes them, especially their political leaders, vulnerable to financial pressure to embrace population control.
The King of Lesotho, Letsie III, is a Catholic who is trying to protect his people against these unjust aggressors. Indeed, he has a history of standing up to public pressure: He witnessed the transforming power of the Gospel of Life when he announced he would no longer practice the tradition of polygamy. Because of his action and leadership, the practice of polygamy is on the decline. This is just one example of the evangelistic power of authentic Christian witness proclaimed by Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI and their predecessors. Such actions can empower a people and motivate them to great acts of virtue and courage.
Promoters of the Culture of Death would propose to the people of Lesotho, the leaders of their parliament and King Letsie III that they are out to save the people of Lesotho, protect the rights of women and control population growth in order to balance natural resources and bring an end to HIV and AIDS. Their tactics, sadly, have gained the support of their Parliament, in the form of a bill that now awaits ratification or veto. It is said that King Letsie III does not support the bill and will veto it, but we know the pressure he is under to sign it.
Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, Archbishop of Maseru in Lesotho, is asking for help from pro-lifers around the world. We at HLI are planning to send our support and encourage the King and rally pro-life supporters in Lesotho. There is always hope that even members of parliament can change their position. With Archbishop Lerotholi, as with John the Baptist, a voice cries out in the wilderness. The voices of the innocent are crying out as well. Do we hear them?
If Lesotho can stand against such an aggression, its impact could be far reaching. As we have seen recently Lichtenstein, Hungary and Ireland, courage can be rewarded. In such examples we are reminded of the story of David and Goliath. Lesotho may seem insignificant like David, while population control groups seem like a wealthy and powerful Goliath - but Goliath fell. It is possible to change the momentum of the Culture of Death and its tight grasp upon the globe. Power, corruption, greed, lust and indifference toward Life can be overcome when the Gospel of Life transforms hearts, and people of Life stand in solidarity.
Pope Benedict XVI's addresses during his pastoral visit to Benin were all built upon the theme of renewal and awakening. In his closing homily, which I would encourage you all to read, the Holy Father offered an invitation to proclaim a message of hope and challenge. In closing, I offer an excerpt of his homily for your reflection:
Christians, builders of peace...this morning, I invite you once again to rejoice with me. One hundred and fifty years ago the cross of Christ was raised in your country, and the Gospel was proclaimed for the first time. ... Everyone who has received this marvelous gift of faith, this gift of an encounter with the risen Lord, feels in turn the need to proclaim it to others. ... And this duty is always urgent! After 150 years, many are those who have not heard the message of salvation in Christ! Many, too, are those who are hesitant to open their hearts to the Lord our God! Many are those whose faith is weak.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Shenan J. Boquet
President, Human Life International
* United Natons Population Fund (UNFPA). Amount based on actual reported numbers and projections from Financial Resource Flows for Population Activities [annual reports, 2001-2007]. Table A.5, "Final Donor Expenditures for Population Assistance in Countries of Africa (Sub-Saharan) by Channel of Distribution."