The International Conference on “Genocide in the New Era”, organised by “Friends of Falun Gong Europe” and “International Advocates for Justice”, took place in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm from January 26th to January 28th 2004. This is one of the conference speeches by Janice Cheung, Executive Director of the Petals of Peace, entitled "Brightening the World, One Petal at a Time", which was given in the afternoon of Monday January the 26th.
One of the best-selling books of all time, second only to the Bible, is “The Diary of Anne Frank”. Though she never lived to see her 16th birthday, Anne Frank's innermost thoughts scribbled on scraps of paper challenge us and shame us, over 50 years after her death. Her life serves as eulogy to the millions of children who perished in World War II.
The Holocaust website has a quote that reads, “She did not leave her legacy as an ode to the past - but as a beacon of hope to the future.” More than 50 years after the first publication of the diary and after 25 million copies sold, millions of children around the world still face torture, death, and genocide.
The innocent faces of Genocide have continued to grow ever since the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was established in 1948 after the Holocaust. In addition to the estimated 1.5 million children who were murdered during the Holocaust, the genocide in Croatia claimed 7,000 Serbian children. In Rwanda, genocide took away 800,000 lives and created 300,000 orphans. With so many other tales of horror, the true number of children who have died in the killing fields may never be known. But are we going to continue allowing the number to grow before we put a stop to Genocide? Are we going to allow history to continue repeating itself?
I stand before you today to give the most difficult speech I’ve ever had to give. Because at this moment, even as we speak, millions of children in China are suffering. They are suffering because they and their parents are upholding one of the very basic human rights, the freedom of belief. Their freedom came under attack more than four years ago in 1999, when the former Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, banned Falun Gong.
Falun Gong is an ancient Chinese form of meditation and exercises with teachings based on the universal principles of “Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance.” Due to the overwhelming popularity of Falun Gong, Jiang launched the persecution with the mission to eradicate its followers. It has been one of the starkest and most horrifying campaigns of repression and one-sided brutal violence in the history of our planet and has continued for four years. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the U.S. government, and other reputable sources have documented hundreds of deaths. Sources in the Chinese government admit the true death toll is in the thousands. More than 100,000 practitioners are known to have been arbitrarily detained in prisons and labor camps where they face brutal violence, gang rape, medieval forms of torture, and every imaginable measure designed to destroy them mentally and physically.
Children, regardless of age, are also victims of this persecution. A 7-month-old infant was tortured to death with his mother while in police custody. The children are stripped of education, driven to homelessness, sent to brainwashing sessions, shocked with electric batons, force-fed with harmful drugs, and even murdered. Countless children are orphaned as their parents are sentenced to cruel mistreatment in forced-labor camps and prisons.
At this time I’d like to introduce to you Fadu, a 3-year-old Chinese Australian. Fadu lost her father at 9 months of age due to the on-going persecution in China. Fadu’s dad wrote a letter to the appeals office in Beijing explaining how the practice had benefited their family and that it is a misunderstanding to ban such a peaceful practice. Shortly after he wrote the letter, authorities came to Fadu’s house and arrested her dad. She never saw him again. Concerned about Fadu’s safety, Jane [Fadu’s mother] returned with Fadu back to Australia anxiously awaiting news of her husband. In July 2001, after months of wondering if her husband was safe, Jane discovered the heartbreaking news on an Internet news report. Her husband was tortured to death and his body was found in an abandoned hut. Fadu will never know her dad.
In three short years, Fadu and her mother have travelled to over 30 countries around the world. They are overcoming their painful family tragedy by bravely sharing their heartfelt story in the hope that other innocent children will no longer have to suffer like Fadu.
Fadu’s heart rending story has inspired a project called “Petals of Peace.’ It is an inspiring initiative to preserve the timeless values of “Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance’ in our world. It also symbolizes hope for all the children who are suffering during the on-going plight of Falun Gong in China. Children all over the world are encouraged to fold a paper lotus flower to help raise awareness about the suffering of our most innocent and vulnerable. Every flower is a gesture of hope that the unjust persecution will soon come to an end.
Why the lotus flower, you may ask? Well, the lotus flower grows out of mud and darkness; it symbolizes the purity that can emerge from cloudy waters and the hope that rises out of the most difficult conditions. It is through the inspiration of the lotus flower that we place our hope for justice.
We all know that the Holocaust did not begin with the murder of 6 million Jewish people. It was a gradual process hidden behind politics and propaganda. Before the persecution of Falun Gong began, there were 70 to 100 million people throughout Chinese society practising it. Add to this all of these people’s families, including children, and one can see that the effect of this persecution is enormous.
As humans of the world and as grown-ups, we not only need to break the silence for the children, but to also take action to fulfil our social and moral responsibilities as human beings. Let’s all stand firm in our words and actions so that we stop and prevent genocide instead of allowing more innocent victims to remind us of what should be done. Let the beacon of hope continue shining across every corner of the world and into every child’s heart. I’d like to end with a quote from Anne Frank:
“Nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
If you’d like more information about “Petals of Peace” please visit our website at www.petalsofpeace.org
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