The pursuit and defense of religious freedom were the themes of July 19’s rally on the eve of the 19th anniversary of the Chinese regime’s crackdown on Falun Gong. Members of civic groups spoke on the importance of championing the rights of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
The speakers were: Faith McDonnell, director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy; William J. Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition; Dr. Linda Lagemann, commissioner of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights; Rong Yi, president of the Tuidang Center; David Cleveland, senior lawyer from the Catholic Charities of Washington; and Dr. Zhiyuan Wang, chairman of the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong.
Below is the opening speech given by Friends of Falun Gong’s executive director, Alan Adler:
Thank you for joining us today here in front of the Washington Monument. This place represents the unique legacy of our founding fathers–one of personal freedom: freedom of belief, assembly, press, and the redress of grievances. America’s founders knew that individual rights were granted by God, not man, and that no government should act in opposition to God’s will. They created a system of governance that protects to the maximum degree each person’s right to his own free thought.
And yet, we’re here to mark an anniversary created by a regime that believes the exact opposite of what our forefathers fought for. Tomorrow’s date, July 20, represents a dark day in religious freedom. On this date 19 years ago, the Chinese communist regime launched an unprecedented attack on members of the Falun Gong faith–not because these individuals posed any threat to the nation or fellow citizens, but because the tenets of their faith–truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance–were found to be in stark contrast with the falseness, evil, and doctrine of struggle embodied by the communist regime.
Free societies are only free because individuals are trusted to govern themselves. Followers of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance living in any free society are equipped with the principles and personal discipline to do so. Sadly, it is in a backwards and upside down communist state that such upstanding people are treated as criminals. Americans must stand up for Falun Gong practitioners because, though not all of them call America home, each one is fighting for American principles–principles for a dignified life.
Washington and his compatriots set forth the spirit and direction for this country. On the international stage, we are the leading force for defending human rights. It might be an unenviable task, and one that other countries might resent us for, but it is one we must take up nonetheless. We are the strongest nation on this planet, due in no small part to the fact that our citizens and communities are built on solid foundations.
The persecution of Falun Gong is a test of our conscience as individuals and as a nation. It is my hope that each of us will stand up in our own capacity, using the tools and resources at each person’s disposal, to make the change needed to bring an end to this persecution. If we look away from this crime, we are relinquishing the world to evil.
I will end my remarks with the words of our founding father George Washington: “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”