WASHINGTON—Around 5,000 practitioners of the spiritual practice Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, came from around the world to attend an experience-sharing conference held in Washington, D.C., on July 14. They heard Falun Gong founder Mr. Li Hongzhi speak, along with 17 practitioners.
Mr. Li first publicly taught this ancient practice in China in 1992, where it spread rapidly by word of mouth, gaining 100 million adherents by early 1999, according to Chinese state figures. The popularity of the practice prompted the Chinese communist regime to begin persecuting Falun Gong in July 1999.
In remarks to the conference, Mr. Li said that even though the communist regime had initiated a brutal, nationwide persecution against Falun Gong, the Chinese people are standing up to the regime to resist the persecution.
People in China now widely discuss how the Party’s rule is in jeopardy, and even members of the Party believe this to be the case, Mr. Li said. The Chinese Communist Party lost people’s trust because of its persecution of Falun Gong, Mr. Li said. He also pointed out that the practitioners of Falun Gong have no interest in politics.
Falun Gong involves practicing five meditative exercises and following teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
Ms. Oksana Bumstead of Ontario, Canada, said the desire for self-improvement is what brought her to the annual Washington conference. She said she came to hear other practitioners and to share experiences with them in practicing Falun Gong so that she and others could improve.
The practitioners spoke at the conference about the trials they encountered as they worked to improve their character, the new understandings they had gained from studying the teachings of Falun Gong, and efforts they have made to tell people about the persecution of Falun Gong in China, among other subjects.
Colin Fredericson from New York spoke about how he had learned to deal with feelings of jealousy and competitiveness after his boss treated him unfairly.
Sixty-six-year-old Grace Wang is one of the millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China who have been detained because of their beliefs. She was held at the notorious Masanjia Forced Labor Camp in northeastern China, where dozens of Falun Gong practitioners are known to have been tortured to death.
Wang told how she tried to maintain a calm mind despite being in a difficult situation and tried to change everything she encountered into something positive. She saw her detention as an opportunity to tell the prison guards and other inmates about the goodness of Falun Gong, disabusing them of the negative notions the regime’s propaganda had given them of the practice.
Despite the brutal policies enforced against detained Falun Gong practitioners, prison guards and inmates admired Wang’s courage, and nine of them started practicing with her inside the labor camp.
Wang was held for three years and then released. She made her way last year to the United States, where she now enjoys freedom of belief to practice Falun Gong.
Daniel Cameron is an Australian who lives with his wife in Taiwan. They traveled to Washington to attend the conference.
“I have become a much better person from practicing Falun Dafa, and I have become a much more wholesome person. That is because I have adhered to truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance,” Cameron said. “In my daily life, I have become a much more positive person. Falun Dafa is lightening my heart.”
Martin Rubanic from Latvia had attended Washington conferences several times before. “It is really precious to meet all the different people from different walks of life. It is more about sharing—not gaining,” Rubanic said.
His friend Tomek Kowalski said that he found the speeches at the conference “heart-moving and inspiring.”
With reporting by Shar Adams and Shu Yan Tan.
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