Good Afternoon. I take off my hat to you for the amazing strength you demonstrate with your brothers and sisters in China in the face of terrible persecution.

High Resolution Picture

Rev. Dr. Clark Lobenstine

It is wonderful to see so many people gathered here today and it reminds me of a promise of Jesus in my Christian tradition that "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." Of course today we are gathered in the name of pluralism, tolerance, and religious freedom. As I look around, it is clear to me that these tenets are born and nurtured among us.

My name is Dr. Rev. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (the IFC). The IFC is a twenty-six-year-old organization that unites the Baha'i, Hindu, Islamic, Jain, Jewish, Latter-day Saints, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Sikh, and Zoroastrian faith communities in this region. We come together to celebrate both our similarities and our differences and to affirm the autonomy of the individual, equal before God, and to join hands as a voice in this world that cannot be broken down into historical, dogmatic, or geographical differences. We join hands as a voice for social justice.

The persecution of the Falun Gong movement in China is something that is dear to my heart and to the heart of the IFC. Personally, my father grew up in China, the son of a Presbyterian missionary there for nearly 40 years who was the Foreign Secretary of the National Christian Council of China from 1915 when it was founded to 1935 when he left China.

For IFC, all of the faith traditions that we represent have experienced persecution at some time and in some place. We empathize with the Falun Gong practitioners who are being unjustly persecuted in China. We share the challenges that this community faces, for an attack on one individual's freedom of religious or spiritual choice is an attack on all of us.

We understand that the persecution of the Falun Gong community may threaten the fabric of this community, but as I look around here at this gathering in Washington, DC, it is clear that this threat is in vain. What the Chinese government and those responsible for this persecution do not realize is that the attempts to suffocate a community and practice that is grounded in principles of peace, wholeness, and self-improvement only lead to a stronger unity and the publicity of the Falun Gong movement.

As witnessed by the growing support for the Falun Gong cause throughout the world, this persecution has stimulated the practice of universal life energy, not stifled it. We pray that Falun Gong practitioners and others will continue to use this injustice to deepen the practice of qigong.

I would like to commend the U.S. Congress for its unanimous support of resolutions that criticized the Chinese government for its oppression of Falun Gong. China has signed onto the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it is our responsibility as fellow citizens of the world, as legislators, and as practitioners of religious freedom to hold the Chinese government accountable to this declaration. This is not a matter of China's autonomy, but a matter of inherent rights granted to, and deserved by, all individuals. We call on our legislators, our Congressional representatives and Senators, to continue to urge our government to persuade the Chinese government to end this terrible persecution and to support the grassroots efforts that have made this movement grow into the success that it has become. Again, many thanks for the privilege of joining you today.