Thursday, February 05, 2009

The University Catholic Lecture

Lord Alton speaks at King's College

Human Dignity, Human Rights, Human Life.
Lord Alton tells students: don't wait to make a difference

Lord Alton of Liverpool issued a new challenge to Catholic students this week, encouraging them not to wait until they are older to face the many offences to human dignity confronting today's world. Around one hundred students and young professionals gathered at Kings College London on Tuesday evening to hear Lord Alton deliver a lecture on Human Dignity, Human Rights, Human Life. Organised by Kings College CathSoc in cooperation with other London student chaplaincy leaders, the lecture was one of the key events of the academic year, bringing together Catholic University students from many London University colleges including Kings, UCL and LSE.

Sharing his personal experiences from nearly thirty years of experience in both Houses of Parliament, Lord Alton affirmed the right to life as fundamental to every human and political community, contrasting it with the development of the eugenics movement in the first half of the 20th century.

"This brutal movement has been responsible for massive human rights violations in the 20th and 21st Century" said Lord Alton, lamenting the recent decision to issue postage stamps commemorating Marie Stopes as a pro-choice heroine. "Lets be clear about what she herself stood for" he said, describing her eugenic proposals to ban whole sectors of the community from bearing children.[1]

Lord Alton described how the eugenic one-child policy in China continued to be funded by the British tax-payer through the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). He recounted numerous examples of brutal human rights violations which had occurred as a consequence of such population control programmes. These included detentions, torture, deaths, forced abortions and forced sterilisations.

Discussing the futility of embryonic stem cell research and the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos, Lord Alton emphasised the lack of scientific arguments supporting the creation of hybrids, noting the poor quality of the evidence submitted to the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee on the HFE Act 2008.

Raising the issues of child mortality and poverty, Lord Alton described these as offences to human dignity. He described the disturbing side-effects of conflicts in places such as the Congo and Darfur and showed pictures depicting various human rights abuses in Burma, North Korea and Latin America.

"Can we not see the link between the disregard for the rights of the child before birth and a callous indifference to a child that has been born?" he said. "This is also reflected in end of life issues". Describing developments in euthanasia practice in Holland, where involuntary euthanasia has become increasingly common, Lord Alton suggested that the claim and legal recognition of a "right" to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, implied absolute power over and against others, which was the "death of true freedom"[2].

Concluding the lecture, Lord Alton suggested that the challenge facing each person was the discovery of the unique task which had been allotted to each of them, quoting the words of Albert Einstein who had said that the world is a dangerous place not because of evil people but because of those who do nothing in the face of evil. "The challenge is to do something about it", concluded Lord Alton. "Don't underestimate the difference that each of you can make in your individual situations" he said. "If all the time we thought we have to wait until we are better, older, wiser - we would wait forever."

Lord Alton encouraged those present to consider ways of providing practical help to those in need – including women who were left to feel pressurised into abortion. Other examples included hospice provision for the dying, the development of ethical cures to debilitating diseases, and willingness to take political action where appropriate.

[1] In 1935 Marie Stopes had claimed that no society "should allow the diseased, the racially-negligent, the careless, the feeble-minded, the very lowest and worst members of the community to produce innumerable tens of thousands of warped and inferior infants".

[2] John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

To find out more about Lord Alton, visit his homepage:
Article by Emilia Klepacka, of the Catholic Union

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