Erica Erwin

Bishop Lawrence Persico with Marielle Lafaro of People for Life, left, and Obianuju Ekeocha, founder and president of Culture of Life Africa and keynote speaker at today’s 41st annual Pro-Life Breakfast at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie. Contributed photo.

The 2012 announcement that Melinda Gates would help lead an international campaign to bring contraceptives to millions of women in African countries gave Obianuju Ekeocha pause.

It was, she said, yet another example of what she describes as “ideological colonialism” – an effort by western organizations, governments and wealthy philanthropists such as Gates to come into African countries and try to set agenda and policy and influence the culture.

Ekeocha, president and founder of Culture for Life Africa, addressed that issue as keynote speaker at People for Life’s 41st annual Pro-Life Breakfast on Saturday at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie. More than 500 people were in attendance, including Bishop Lawrence Persico.

“We don’t have organizations that are solely dedicated to abortion rights,” in African countries, Ekeocha said in a telephone interview before the event. “We are finding international organizations and (non-governmental organizations) come in and then they begin to infiltrate, if you like, African institutions.

“What allows them to do that work is the amount of money, the billions of dollars that go into these organizations. … Organizations with a budget of $400 million every year can come into an African country and have more money than (that country’s) ministry of health,” said the Nigerian-born Ekeocha. “They’re trying to poison society with the idea of abortion and abortion rights.”

Culture of Life Africa, an initiative “dedicated to the promotion and defense of the African values of the sanctity of life, beauty of marriage, blessings of motherhood, and the dignity of family life,” works to counter those efforts.

Ekeocha is also an author, public speaker and documentarian – her movie, “Strings Attached”, is scheduled to be released this fall.

She recognized the work of Erie’s pro-life community and deliver a message of unity and a call to action.

“Whether you are doing pro-life work globally or locally, it all plays into one thing: We want the end to this human rights crisis. We want complete abolition of it,” Ekeocha said. “Erie people are part of the pro-life community who are called to strengthen no only the local pro-life movement but the global pro-life movement. We can do that by making sure every American president from here forward is pro-life.”

Tim Broderick, president of People for Life, an Erie pro-life organization, said he hopes people come away from the breakfast with “a deeper awareness that our pro-life values are universal feelings and universal values, that they transcend national boundaries and cultures and religions.”

 “I think people have preconceived notions of what the pro-life community is all about, and a lot of those are inaccurate,” Broderick said. “I always like to see new people (attend pro-life events) so they can really see how it is from the inside, what the people are like. They might just find out this is a good avenue for them to express their pro-life convictions.”

People for Life is also sponsoring a bus trip to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life on Jan. 18, and an Erie March for Life on Jan. 26. More information can be found at www.peopleforlife.org.