Pro-Life Leaders Meet for Asia-Pacific Congress in Kazakhstan

International   |   Brian Clowes, Ph.D.   |   Oct 19, 2011   |   11:18AM   |   Astana, Kazakhstan

Kaza­khstan is the ninth-largest country in the world, nearly four times the size of Texas. It is located between Russia and China, and has only about 15.5 million people, giving it a very sparse population density indeed, far less than Utah, Nevada, or Arizona.

About 47% of Kazakhs are Mus­lim, and about 44% are Russian Or­thodox, with Roman Catholics and Lutherans comprising small mi­norities. The nation’s total fertility rate is about 1.9 children per woman, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. The United Nations says that this will soon decline to a disastrously low 1.3 children per woman.

This is the lethal malady com­mon to all of the former Soviet So­cialist Republics. Once an anti­child attitude has been drilled into the minds of the people for three generations, once abortion has be­come a convenience that people are accustomed to, once they cannot imagine living without it, their country will die unless three gen­erations of intensive pro- natalist propaganda counter the ingrained anti-life mentality.

In September, Human Life Inter­national’s 18th Asia-Pacific Con­gress (ASPAC) took place in Astana, most of which has been built since it was designated the national cap­ital in 1994. The symbol of the city is the fantastic Khan Shatyr, a 500 ­foot-high leaning tent- like struc­ture which uses water circulation that consumes no energy to keep its interior at about 68-75 degrees, even though the typical range of weather in Astana is from 105 de­grees in the summer to minus 40 degrees in the winter.

The Khan Shatyr encloses a complete high-end mall and a small railway that traverses its circumfer­ence 100 feet above the ground. It also features one of those vertical drop amusement park rides that make you think your body and soul have prematurely parted company. Eight percent of the entire GDP of Kazakhstan is devoted to build­ing the city of Astana as quickly as possible. People who work for the government and the big corpora­tions are required to live in the huge apartment buildings that are located within a block of where they are employed, a move de­signed to limit traffic congestion in the future. The city today is well ­designed and spread out over a large area. Obviously, the city man­agers had an eye on the future when they laid Astana out.

Astana is a beautiful city of the future, and its people are very well­ off. But the visiting pro-lifers from 16 different nations felt an almost subliminal undercurrent of uneasi­ness, brought on by something im­portant that is missing — in this case, small children.

You would think, in an empty nation like Kazakhstan, there would be groups encouraging peo­ple to have more children, but ex­actly the opposite is the case. Fam­ily Health International and USAID distribute contraceptives by the ton, the Population Council writes long reports supporting the continued availability of abortion for any rea­son or no reason at all, and, of course, the lethal alphabet soup of the United Nations coordinates ev­erything — UNAIDS, CEDAW, UNDESA, UNDP, UNIFEM, and the omnipresent UNFPA.

Nobody could explain why all of these population control groups are necessary in a nation that has an average of only 15 people per square mile.

The answer lies in the nation’s natural resources. Kazakhstan is rich in manganese, chromium, cop­per, cobalt, gold, uranium, coal, nat­ural gas, and, of course, oil. The core principle of National Securi­ty Study Memorandum 200 of 1974 is certainly operative here: “The U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries. . . . Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth­rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource sup­plies and to the economic interests of the United States.”

In other words, a large popula­tion is a strong population, and the people of such a nation will want to use their own natural resources; so North America, Europe, Austra­lia, and Japan do all they can to hold down the population of Ka­zakhstan so we can get our hands on its minerals and other treasures.

One of the worst features of pop­ulation control in Kazakhstan is that the abortifacient intrauterine device (IUD) is by far the most pop­ular form of birth control, with over two-thirds of contracepting women using it. The IUD causes a wide range of sometimes lethal health problems and is rarely used in the United States. Apparently the pop­ulation controllers think is it fine for the women of poorer nations. This is another of the dozens of exam­ples of the “contraceptive imperial­ism” that is being imposed on peo­ple all over the world.

Speaking And Networking

We began the congress with a beautiful Mass featuring 20 priests, including five bishops. We then moved from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to the Con­vention Center, where each of the 16 national delegations brought their flags up to the stage to the accompa­niment of several young ladies in col­orful Kazakh traditional dress.

Then, Archbishop Tomasz Peta, archbishop of Astana and chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bish­ops of Kazakhstan, welcomed us warmly. In fact, he and three other bishops — Astana Auxiliary Bish­op Athanasius Schneider, Bishop Jan Pawel Lenga from Karaganda, and Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Si­erra of Holy Trinity of Almaty — at­tended every session over the three­day congress.

The Kazakh government officially recognized the ASPAC by sending two high-level officials from the ministries of family and interfaith relations to speak, welcoming the congress and its participants. We hope that this will lead to pro-life initiatives by the gov­ernment in the near future.

Ligaya Acosta, HLI’s regional co­ordinator for Asia and the Pacific, also welcomed everyone, and Jo­seph Meaney, HLI’s director of in­ternational coordination, read a statement from Fr. Shenan Boquet, the new president of Human Life In­ternational. Finally, Archbishop Miguel Mauri Buendia, papal nun­cio to Kazakhstan, read a letter from the Holy Father welcoming every­one and highly commending HLI’s work, sending his “vivid encourage­ment to all those who, personally or collectively, in Asia and Oceania undertake to serve human life with the light of faith and reason.”

During the three days of the con­gress, 11 speakers took the stage and spoke on such varied topics as demo­graphics, the war on unborn baby girls, assisted reproductive technologies, and ecumenical pro-life activities.

Yuriy Timofeevich Novgorodov, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kazakhstan, covered this last topic, and his talk was fascinat­ing because it laid out a roadmap for cooperation among the pro-life groups in the country. HLI has operated on these principles for decades, and it was refreshing to know that this bish­op was so experienced in pro-life and pro-family organization and could speak on them so fluently, even with the necessity of an interpreter. He re­ceived enthusiastic applause at the conclusion of his presentation.

Archpriest Fr. Maksim Obukhov of the Russian Orthodox Church spoke on the current and potential activities of the pro-life movement in Eastern Europe, heralding a new Catholic/Orthodox cooperation that has not existed before in Kazakhstan.

Demographer Igor Ivanovich Beloborodov, director of the Insti­tute for Demographic Research in Moscow, spoke of the massive and deadly effects of anti-natalist pro­grams all around the world. I had a private conversation with Igor, and he described the motorized “March for Life” movement in Russia that has recently expanded to ten cities. We agreed that the potential for HLI’s pro-life mission work in dy­ing Russia is enormous.

After the last talk, the Malaysian delegation and Ligaya Acosta invited everyone to the 19th Asia-Pacific Con­gress, to be held in Malaysia in 2013.

Archbishop Peta gave us a final blessing, and we all walked to the cathedral courtyard for dinner and a couple of hours of networking and just plain “fellowshipping,” as the Lutherans so appropriately call it. It was indeed edifying to see people from so many countries and so many faiths working and planning together for a pro-life Kazakhstan.

Wrapping It Up

The closing Mass in the cathedral was inspiring and most edifying. The nuncio read another statement commending the work of Kazakh pro-life workers. Not only were six bishops and 20 other priests in at­tendance, but also a real live cher­ub was also present. This star of the congregation was a baby girl dressed up as an angel, with white dress, white wings, and a headband with white rosettes.

Immediately following the ASPAC, Joseph Meaney conducted a full day of pro-life training for all of the priests and religious of the Archdiocese of As­tana. Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider translated all of his talks, which covered the primary anti-life and anti-family threats to the people of Kazakhstan.

The day after the ASPAC ended, I arose at 1:30 a.m. for the 4:35 flight to Frankfurt out of Astana Interna­tional Airport. The city was quiet and dark at this hour, except for the bridges over the river, which were colorfully lit, and a couple of prom­inent buildings equipped with tiny white lights so that they sparkled.

Even at night, Astana looks futur­istic.

If Kazakhstan is to have a future of any kind, however, its people must reject the anti- life mentality that has gripped their nation for so long and must embrace a true Cul­ture of Life.

Please pray for the people and the leadership of Kazakhstan. Note:  Brian Clowes is Director of Research and Training for Human Life International. He has travelled to over 50 nations worldwide, has written extensively in various media, and has written ten books, including the recently released Pro-Life Pastoral Handbook. With affiliates and associates in over 100 nations worldwide, HLI is the world’s largest international pro-life organization. This article originally appeared in the October 20, 2011 edition of The Wanderer.