BELFAST, Northern Ireland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pro-lifers in the thousands have taken to the streets and packed a Belfast Catholic church and Church of Ireland cathedral to overflowing in the largest protests so far against the "backdoor" imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland by the British Parliament.
Over 20,000 pro-lifers staged a silent vigil at the Stormont parliament building in Belfast on Friday evening. They bowed their heads and held lit candles for six minutes, to represent the six counties in N. Ireland.
Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and Robin Swann, head of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), were among the participants.
"Joining thousands of people from across all backgrounds tonight, to stand together and defend the rights of the unborn child. Both lives matter," tweeted Foster.
At the @NIvoiceless protest. Joining thousands of people from across all backgrounds tonight, to stand together and defend the rights of the unborn child. Both lives matter. pic.twitter.com/k8XVvlCZ1B— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) September 6, 2019
Sarah Crutchley, spokesperson for NI Voiceless, the rally's main organizer, said:
We want our silence to say two things: that first, we, as the people of Northern Ireland, were not asked about this change in legislation, and that it actually goes against public opinion here, and that every sitting MP from Northern Ireland voted against this change, and that the unborn children, they have no voice, they cannot speak so they were not considered in this legislation.
On Saturday, at least 25,000 pro-lifers held a "March For Their Lives" rally at Custom House Square in Belfast's city center.
Precious Life's Bernadette Smyth, the march's main organizer, told Church Militant that the pro-lifers began at 1 p.m. with Holy Mass at St. Patrick's Church attended by over 2,000 Catholics
A relic of St. Patrick brought from Dublin for the occasion was laid on the altar during the Eucharist and carried in procession at the rally, she said.
Father Paddy McCafferty, the main celebrant at the Mass, was one of the main speakers at the rally. Archbishop Eamon Martin, archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, took part in the march and was very supportive, Smyth said.
The support for the rally was so overwhelming that the city center was gridlocked and police had to re-route the march, she added.
Other speakers included Stephanie McKittrick, who was advised to terminate her baby three times, and Baroness Nuala O'Loan, a former police ombudsman, who blamed the new abortion legislation on Northern Ireland's "absentee" politicians, decrying the lack of an executive sitting at Stormont to represent the public.
Meanwhile, pro-abortionists held a counter-protest at Writer's Square in Belfast. Feminists and LGBT activists took part in the so-called "Rally for Choice."
Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International said women would soon have "decriminalization of abortion and free, safe and legal and local services."
"We want free, safe, legal and local abortion access for anyone who needs it in Northern Ireland," Elaine Crory, one of the organizers, told the media.
A media source told Church Militant that numbers at the pro-abortion rally were a few hundred and "a drop in the ocean" compared to the vast crowds rallying for life.
According to Bernadette Smyth, the pro-abortionists were extremely aggressive and even spat on her as she was coming out of the church after Mass.
Earlier on Monday, pro-lifers held a non-denominational prayer meeting "For the Soul of the Nation" at St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.
Sources told Church Militant that the Church of Ireland cathedral was so packed that over 200 people were standing in the aisles and hundreds of people stood outside to take part in the prayer meeting.
A number of men with disabilities read psalm 139 and other biblical passages about being formed by God in their mothers' womb.
Alain Emerson of 24-7 Prayer had the congregation join him in praying, "We ask you to forgive us especially Lord when we assumed a position of privilege and judgment. We repent of our pride, our self righteous and any entitled mind sets we have adopted."
One of the speakers that churches needed to "ask forgiveness for what the church has done to the children and what the church has done to marriage," while another warned that "judgment begins at the house of God."
David Smyth of the Evangelical Alliance said the bill was "not about minor changes for the hard cases" but would give pregnancies little protection right up to viability, and no protection from abortion on grounds of gender preference or disability.
Bernadette Smyth told Church Militant: "I am very encouraged by the support we have received from the Evangelical Churches in Northern Ireland who are beginning to speak out against the undemocratic decision made by the Westminster Government in July to impose abortion on our pro-life provinces."
She added: "Also we have seen a determined opposition from within the staunchly nationalist areas where Sinn Féín voters were appalled that the party was inviting British direct rule, and equally staunch resistance from Unionist communities which have long agreed that abortion should remain a devolved Issue."
"Precious Life say resistance to the imposition of abortion in Northern Ireland is drawing support from across the traditional divide in the province," she noted.
In July, the British Parliament passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act, which forces abortion and same-sex marriage on Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland could be set to become the late-term abortion capital of Europe if its devolved assembly is not restored in the next six weeks by Oct. 21.
Pro-life groups have launched a petition to the British Parliament against the new legislation. Leaders of pro-life rallies have said that further demonstrations will take place during the lead-up to Oct. 21.