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'I was arrested for praying in public'

Christian Hacking was praying outside an abortion clinic in London when he was arrested. He explains what this means for Christians and why the Church must end its silence

*Contains some graphic descriptions of abortion

Have you ever seen an abortion? Not heard about it, not had it described, but seen it? With your own eyes? I was 22 years old when I saw a pamphlet with a decapitated, disemboweled body lying slayed on a surgical glove, and I was appalled, broken, dismayed, confused. Why? Because that's not what I thought abortion was. For me growing up, abortion was simply “the termination of a pregnancy". 

"Trains terminate", I thought, "as do contracts. Why can't pregnancies terminate too?” Abortion was "a medical procedure", the "treatment of an unwanted pregnancy", and (I shudder to say this now) a solution to Down’s syndrome. Abortion was a choice, a right, a women's issue. Not this. A helpless little dead baby on a glove. That image changed everything. That day the euphemisms of abortion began to rust.

Five years later, there were no euphemisms left. Instead just the hideous reality: nine million human lives brutally ended in the name of choice. Not in some genocide on a distant shore, but here, in Britain, in Brixton, Richmond and up Mattock Lane. That’s where I was that day in August – outside Marie Stopes’ abortion clinic on Mattock Lane  –  when, in a moment of madness, I broke the law.

I didn’t set out that morning to break the law, I was visiting with a friend, curious to see the clinic where 7,411 unborn children died last year (214 past their 20th week). I knew about the buffer zone that prohibited any act of approving or disproving of abortion - including prayer, but as we drew near my heart began to break and my bones began to burn.

I can only describe it as “having enough”. I'd had enough of the killing, and the concealing of our so-called "freedom". Enough of a trade that benefits from death. Enough of the framing and the media bias. Enough of the lies and silencing of those trying to help women in a crisis. Enough of the hideous eugenics and the young talent offering themselves blindly to ideologies that have raw power and not love at their core.  

So that day in August, in a moment of righteous anger, I bowed my head and began to pray. I prayed for those innocent lives, those image bearers, torn apart because despair was greater than hope, fear greater than faith, lust greater than love! I prayed for the mothers, that they would know that they are mothers, for the fathers that they would know they are fathers. I prayed for the abortionists that the Lord would have mercy. I prayed that the Lord would end abortion in our land. 

While I was praying I was approached by police officers who proceeded to arrest me. When I asked one of the officers whether it was now a criminal offence to pray, they said that I had breached a court order. This is a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) that prevents people committing “any act of approval/disapproval” outside the clinic, including “prayer”. They tried to talk me out of it, but I just kept praying, until I was carried off to their van.  For a police force crushed by cuts, and ravaged by knife crime, it seemed sad to me that five police officers, through the passing of bad law, were now obliged to arrest me.

Reflecting back I guess really I’d had enough of the silent church. So in my imperfect way, I tried to be the church I want to see. A church that is there in the darkest moments, a church that will not be silent, a church that will stand in your way if it has to, a church that will fight for the most vulnerable, not with weapons of war but with God's word and with prayer. A church that will suffer, a church that will be misunderstood and maligned in the pursuit of truth, and a church that is willing to break evil laws in pursuit of good ones. A church whose daily worship saves lives. 

That day I prayed over and over “Lord wake up the Church”. I only hope that my story is part of the answer.  

Christian Hacking is married to Esther, and lives in south east London with his three kids, (one still cotching in his mother’s womb). He works part time for CBRUK and has recently taken up wild Mushroom picking, apparently “the most boring and potentially lethal hobby around”. 

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Premier Christianity is committed to publishing a variety of opinion pieces from across the UK Church. The views expressed on our blog do not necessarily represent those of the publisher.

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