By Dr. Jules Gomes
It was the best of conferences. It filled Britain's most prestigious concert hall. It hosted the preacher to the papal household. It announced it was uniting "people from every corner of the world for two days with world class speakers, worship and encouragement." It boasted it was "saving the lives of malnourished babies" and "helping to protect women from violence."
It was the worst of conferences. It closed its eyes to heart-rending images of innocent babies butchered in their mother's wombs. It shut its ears to the silent screams of 9 million British babies dismembered before birth.
Its leaders, in a farcical rerun of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, passed by on the other side when a small group of pro-lifers tried to talk to them.
The Alpha International Leadership Conference, held from May 6–7 at the Royal Albert Hall, has come under fire for refusing to engage with Britain's abortion holocaust. Christian pro-life groups who staged a display outside the conference venue say they were shocked by the response of the conference delegates.
"I was prepared for everything from mild agreement and apathy to slight opposition to our method of raising awareness on abortion," Susie Molina, head of public education for the Centre for Bio-ethical Reform U.K. (CBRUK), said.
But she was "not prepared at all for two male conference delegates mocking us as they walked past, mimicking our question 'What do you think about abortion?' and mocking our volunteers," German-born Molina told Church Militant.
"I was also not prepared for another female conference delegate who walked past the heartbreaking image of a late-term aborted foetus and told us: 'I am pro-life but seeing these images I want to be pro-choice!'" she added.
Dave Brennan, executive director of Brephos, a pro-life organization equipping churches to speak out for the unborn child, said he had written to Nicky Gumbel, developer of the Alpha course, six times in nine months trying to engage him "on the scale of this genocide."
"I was hoping for Gumbel, as conference organizer, to use this incredible God-given platform to mobilize the Church on behalf of the unborn through the 5,000 Christian leaders at the conference," he said.
Church Militant has learned that Gumbel responded only once, very briefly, declining to go or send his staff to a conference offering training in abortion apologetics.
Instead, Gumbel recommended a YouTube video by Justin Welby, Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, who, quoting Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia, argues that he values "life in the womb as we value life outside the womb, but that's the ideal, the reality is that ... people in all kinds of complicated circumstances find themselves overwhelmed ... when from within them there's just an overwhelming fear; we can't judge them."
When asked why Gumbel's church, Holy Trinity Brompton, should respond to him, Brennan said: "The problem is not that they refused to engage with us; the problem is that they are refusing to engage with abortion."
Of the 5,000 Christian leaders attending the conference, those who responded to the pro-life volunteers were mostly Catholic and foreigners, especially American, volunteers reported.
Many Catholics had come to hear papal preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, who said that Pope Francis is "resolutely leading us Catholics" in the direction of unity.
Molina contrasted the indifference of "mature Church leaders hurrying past the image of a dead child with a bright smile and a raised hand upon being offered a leaflet, saying, 'Thanks, I'm good'" to her conversation with an atheist Russian student who "grilled" her for an hour and ended by saying: "You have completely convinced me. This is the first time I have spoken to a pro-lifer and have been satisfied with the answers."
Tim Boulton, a CBRUK volunteer, told Church Militant he was reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan: "The response was very mixed, with groups of delegates hurrying past in an 'outbreak of Levitis,' several seeking us out with discrete words of encouragement, some mocking, one lady even saying our presence 'was inappropriate.'"
"However, there were delegates who paused to engage and acknowledged that abortion was not a topic on the teaching of their local Church and that it should be," Boulton said. "A surprising discovery was that many non-U.K. delegates wondered what the problem was as 'of course, our Church teaches on abortion.'"
On the final day of the conference, conference organizers tweeted how they were "feeding more than 200,000 children and adults. We are saving the lives of malnourished babies and we are helping to protect women from violence. We are able to bring light with solar lights protecting women and girls from being attacked in the dark."
Brennan commended the conference for including a session on knife crime.
"But the 1 billion or so abortion deaths over the last century dwarf fatalities caused by knife crime, terrorism, famine and world wars combined," he noted. "We are sleepwalking through the greatest genocide in history. That's why, when we find that the leaders of conferences are not interested in addressing it on the inside, we won't hesitate to address it on the outside."
"We have reason to believe that every delegate who came will have seen the harsh reality of abortion at least once now and will have had opportunity to engage and find out more," he said. "They may choose to look the other way, but they can never again say that they did not know."
Church Militant contacted Gumbel for comment but received no response as of press time.