Opinion

First they came for the preborn, and I did not speak out

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Martin Niemöller was a German Protestant pastor who spoke out against Adolf Hitler during World War II. Because of his outspokenness, he spent seven years in the Nazi concentration camps. Niemöller survived the war and for the rest of his life, deeply regretted not having done more for those persecuted by Hitler. He helped initiate the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt through the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, which confessed guilt for failing to adequately oppose Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Niemöller is perhaps best known for a poem he wrote that expresses his own guilt and bystander role in the early stages of World War II:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me – Martin Niemöller

Let us not spend our later lives riddled with guilt and regret, as Martin Niemöller did, but stand up for life right now. I think sometimes it can be easy to stay silent on controversial issues because my life is not in immediate danger. I’m not in danger of being aborted. I’m not in danger of being euthanized. But if the humanity of my fellow brothers and sisters is in danger, then all of humanity is in danger. If the humanity of our fellow brothers and sisters is not priceless, then none of us are priceless – and my conscience tells me that that simply cannot be true.

First they came for the preborn, and I did not speak out – because I had already been born.

Then they came for the disabled and sick, and I did not speak out – because I was not disabled nor was I sick.

Then they came for the elderly, and I did not speak out – because I was not elderly.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me

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