The following speech was made by Secretary General Interfaith International Charles Graves on August 1st 2007 at the launch of the human rights torch. For more information on the torch, please see http://www.clearharmony.net/articles/200708/40724.html
Ladies and gentlemen,
The authorities of the People’s Republic of China have not taken an official position to tolerate the practice of Falun Gong in China. Therefore we continue to proclaim that modern, enlightened states cannot uphold the torch of the Olympic Games while at the same time suppress the torch of religious belief.
Obviously it was the highest political authority in the People’s Republic which sought for, and obtained, the right to hold the Olympic Games in 2008, and it is the highest political authority in the People’s Republic which promotes the persecution and oppression of the Falun Gong movement.
The purpose of this ceremony today is to point out the inconsistency in the People’s Republic’s ‘politics’. How can a government support the high ideals of the Olympic Games and at the same time denigrate and try to demolish a sincere religious movement within its borders? This is the anomaly of Chinese politics.
Every country exhibits such an anomaly to a greater or lesser extent. What the country proclaims as its ideals and what it does politically very often does not match. On the other hand, under the pressure of outside political influences, many countries try to change their policies to fit the international ideals.
On the question of upholding Olympic ideals while at the same time persecuting Falun Gong, we are here today in Athens, symbolically, trying to show the Chinese political leaders that they should change their policies and allow religious tolerance of Falun Gong in their country. Religious tolerance is a major principle of the United Nations.
China has no special ‘right’ to practise discrimination against any of its religious minorities. Each country which has agreed to follow United Nations principles must make every effort to promote a political system which protects the human rights it has agreed to. Many political leaders who have visited China have asked the political leaders of the People’s Republic to respect human rights. Among these requests is that China respect the religious orientations of the Falun Gong belief. In the Tang dynasty period such respect was forthcoming. Foreign born religions such as Buddhism and Christianity were tolerated in Xian (Hsi-an).
Falun Gong may appear to the Chinese authorities as ‘foreign-born’ yet its first growth was indigenous to China. In fact, such a growth made the political authorities fearful, and they suppressed Falun Gong. But such fear is not the best support for long term political decisions. The Tang emperors showed no such fear. A mature Chinese political leadership should not allow such fears to compromise its position as one of the contemporary world leaders. The Chinese government should bypass its fear and allow tolerance of the Falun Gong movement and protect Falun Gong rights.
Charles Graves. D. Theol.
1 August 2007
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