International Religious Freedom

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July 19, 2015

A Dream of a Free China

IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith McDonnell speaking at the rally for freedom in China at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo credit: Fiona McDonnell)

IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith McDonnell speaking at the rally for freedom in China at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo credit: Fiona McDonnell)

On Thursday, July 16, 2015, I participated in a rally for freedom in China at the U.S. Capitol. The rally was sponsored by the Falun Gong movement, a Chinese spiritual practice derived from Buddhism and Taoism. Like Chinese Christians and Tibetan Buddhists, the practitioners of Falun Gong are severely persecuted in China.

Every year thousands of Falun Gong practitioners come to Washington, DC to raise awareness about the lack of religious freedom and other human rights in China. The crackdown on Falun Gong members has been especially severe with hundreds of thousands arrested and imprisoned, and thousands subjected to horrific torture — often dying as a result. The practitioners bring colorful and poignant banners and posters. And members of Congress are regular visitors, stopping by and pledging their support.

This year, I discovered that the usual rally participants were joined by RideToFreedom, an effort by 30 teenagers from all over the world to rescue five Chinese children who were orphaned by the Chinese Communist regime’s persecution of their parents. The young people, some of whom are posing with me in the photo at the top of this blog post, cycled over 3000 miles, from Los Angeles to Washington.

Information from the group explains, “Since the persecution of Falun Gong began in 1999, the children of Falun Gong practitioners have been abandoned, detained, and even killed after losing their parents. Ride to Freedom raises awareness for the plight of these children and seeks to bring five of them to safety. This will be the first of several rescue missions and will set the precedent to offering the same protection to many more.”

The following is my statement from the rally:

Thank you for once again inviting me to share this important moment with you to mark the Chinese Communist Party’s merciless crackdown on Falun Gong. The Institute on Religion and Democracy stands in solidarity with you in working for freedom for all of the Chinese people.

The late Senator Robert F. Kennedy was famous for saying, “Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” What do we dream for the Chinese people?

  • Why not a Chinese government that honors and respects all citizens?
  • Why not a government that allows religious freedom and all other human rights to flourish, and promotes democracy and economic opportunity for all?
  • Why not a government that allows families to choose how many children they will have, and values baby girls equally to baby boys?
  • Why not a government that encourages citizens who are working for a free global community?
  • Why not a government where North Koreans who flee that evil regime are treated with compassion and in accord with international law?
  • Why not a government in which the hideous, evil practice of organ harvesting is unthinkable?
  • Finally — why not a government that is not a Communist government!

It is obvious from the great work of Falun Gong members, Christian activists, advocates for a Free Tibet, and all those who stand in solidarity with them that dreaming is not all that is going on! For instance,

  • We commend Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her colleagues who have introduced House Resolution 343, ““Expressing concern regarding persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China, including from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups,” and we urge the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security to take the next step towards passing this resolution.
  • We commend over 60,000 Falun Gong practitioners and their family members who have filed criminal complaints against Jiang Zemin for the violent suppression of Falun Gong in China.
  • We continue to commend the movement that has led to the bold statement of over 200 million Chinese people renouncing the Chinese Communist Party. This is now up to 120,000 people daily. Some, who don’t have internet access have even physically written their renunciation statements on paper and posted them in public.
  • And we commend the Chinese Christians who rise and pray for their country every day at 5AM, as they say in the words of this song, translated into English:

At 5am in China arises the sound of prayers, asking God to bring peace, blessing, unity and victory. At 5am in China arises the sound of worship, the people are all offering true love to God, with one mind and heart for China. At 5am in China arises the sound of prayer, surpassing a thousand mountains and rivers, melting hardened hearts. There will never again be bondage or war, but a reversal of fate, bringing again a bountiful harvest.”

With strong, brave, honest, compassionate, and faithful people like this in China, we know that these dreams of freedom for all will come true. The Institute on Religion & Democracy will do everything in our power to help make that happen. Thank you once again for allowing me to share this anniversary with you. May God bless you, and may God bless all the Chinese people.

You can listen to this lovely Chinese hymn here. And there will be more photos from this rally to come. Please pray for the Chinese people. Pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters and pray for the persecuted members of Falun Gong, that the prayers of Chinese Christians for them will be answered.


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