Vigil rare display of faith at University of Victoria

By  Greg Van Dyk, Youth Speak News
  • December 9, 2010
University of VictoriaVICTORIA - On Nov. 27, students at the University of Victoria held a day-long vigil to pray for the rights of the unborn.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., about 15 students gathered throughout the day, rosaries in hand, with at least four people present every hour.

It’s the sort of public display of faith that is rare on the University of Victoria campus though.

“There needs to be a stronger faith-based message on campus,” said Josh Adema, a masters student in mathematics. Adema planned the event independent of the campus pro-life group after being inspired by an article about several priests praying the rosary outside an American abortion clinic.  

And although the vigil was not a direct response to the pro-life Carleton Lifeline club losing status and funding, Adema was shocked by what happened.

“I felt strongly that we have to also make a voice on the University of Victoria’s campus so that people are aware of the suppression of the pro-life message,” he said.

Fr. Dean Henderson, campus chaplain at the University of Victoria, echoes this sentiment.  

“I love to see an increase in the freedom which is our right in a democracy to exercise our faith, not just in private but in public,” he said.

Henderson realizes that such faith-based displays can be quite controversial.

“There are folks on the campus that would be diametrically opposed to this vision of public displays of faith — folks with humanistic or atheistic ambitions.”

In the past, pro-life events on the campus have faced strong opposition.

Pro-choice advocates have often been vocal in condemning abortion debates and presentations. This fall, the University of Victoria’s pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth, hosted Jose Ruba from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. Pro-choice advocates petitioned to shut down Ruba’s presentation, “Echoes of the Holocaust,” which compared abortion to genocide.

“Faith, I think, is the only topic not openly debated on campus,” said Adema. “In fact, the campus is hostile to it.”

“You can’t see Jesus in the New Testament simply promoting a privatized, individualized demonstration of faith,” said Henderson. “Christ speaks publicly about truth and demonstrates that truth by acting compassionately with all in public.”

At the vigil, Brian Bird, a third-year law student, said he initially felt very self-conscious praying in public.

“However, I soon felt at ease and my prayer felt very personal and interior despite the fact that the vigil was held at a central location on campus.”

The event was open to students of any faith, as long as they believed in the cause being prayed for, although most of the students were Catholic.

Adema feels universities have thrown away the concept of God and are ignoring the thousands of years of Christian theology and philosophy.  

“The most vital question a person can ask is: ‘Do I believe in a God?’ ” said Adema.

“It’s now up to the good works of faith to shine in a darkening culture, which will then bring God back to the forefront.”

(Van Dyk, 19, is a second-year humanities student at the University of Victoria.)

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