Wednesday was a whirlwind. I can’t believe that the week is almost over. We only have one more day left of the conference! There have definitely been hard moments, but over all, a lot of good has happened as a result of us being here.
Yesterday, after the meetings for the day were over, we were blessed with a meeting Archbishop Francis Chullikatt. The Archbishop is the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations since being appointed by Pope Benedict XVI on 17 July 2010. Previously he served as apostolic nuncio to Iraq and Jordan. He was so supportive and kind! As someone who has been fighting the good fight in international policy for years, he said he understood how difficult it is to be an advocate of truth in a place like the United Nations Headquarters. We presented him with a beautiful San Damiano cross made in Steubenville—Archbishop Chullikatt said he’d hang it in the room the Pope stays in when he comes to visit. Which is pretty cool.
Speaking with Archbishop Chullikatt was really affirming. Being here at the United Nations to advocate for the dignity of the person can be draining when you’re in the obvious minority and the opposition is adamantly refusing to listen to any comments on the issues that don’t fit their agenda.
After meeting the Archbishop we all went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a youth Mass and a later gathering of the Catholic underground at a local restaurant. The Catholic underground is a national network of Catholic youth and young adults that provides community and social connections.
As for today’s meetings and other events. Today continued the divide-and-conquer tactic. Rebekah, Andrew, Eli, and I attended a talk called “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” in which a panel of sexual and reproductive health activists discussed the need for more focus on issues such as preventing violence against women and providing at-risk countries with means to give women more autonomy—which of course meant only birth control and abortion.
During the question and answer session, a girl from Columbia asked how the panel intended to reconcile the autonomy due the unborn child with abortion and declared that she personally believed this to be a violation of the rights of that unborn child. She insisted that there had to be a way to address the issue without sacrificing either the woman or the baby. Only one panelist responded. She asked everyone to consider, in the event of a woman hospitalized for a dangerous pregnancy, to choose which life was more important. Another girl in the audience stood to speak shortly after in support of the idea that abortion and contraception are damaging to the woman and received applause from the audience.
While the panel discussion itself was shocking in its radicalism (even for the UN conference), this Q&A session at the conclusion gave us hope—and an unexpected ally. We exchanged contact information with the girls (both of whom were serving as representatives of different human rights organizations) who were hopeful that we will be able to connect on future human rights projects.
Colleen went to an interactive talk on teaching young girls about the Millennial Development Goals discussed at the conference hosted by Girls Lean International. Attendees broke up into groups and learned about concepts such as autonomy among the nations, working rights for women, and rights to education in various countries, among others.
Colleen said she was pleasantly surprised by the openness of other attendees to receiving her opinions on human life and international policy, which is good news. The majority of attendees were youth. If the youth are open to hearing us, then the future doesn’t look so bad after all.