Audience members listened attentively as speakers went to the podium one after another and shared about their spiritual journeys.
Some of the stories they told were light in tone; others were solemn. The various speakers evoked laughter, tears, and applause from the audience.
What the attendees all had in common was the spiritual discipline Falun Gong. They held the experience sharing conference at a performing arts center in Millbrae, California, on Aug. 25.
Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, involves practicing five meditative exercises and following the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. At the conference, practitioners discussed how they applied these principles in their daily lives to become better people.
The practice became popular in China in the 1990s, with an estimated 70 to 100 million practitioners by 1999. It was well known for its physical and mental health benefits.
However, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Jiang Zemin viewed the practice’s enormous popularity as a potential threat to his power. In 1999, he launched a brutal persecution against Falun Gong that has continued to this day.
Since then, Falun Gong practitioners all over the world have been working to raise awareness of this human rights crime. Speakers at the conference discussed how they had been raising awareness of the persecution and how they had improved themselves in the process, learning to cooperate well with others or to be more tolerant.
“Especially those people from mainland China, we need to inform them of the facts and help them quit the CCP organizations for a better future,” IT firm founder Chris Kitze said at the conference, according to Minghui.org, a website that reports on the persecution and Falun Gong events.
Kitze shared how people from mainland China have quit their CCP membership after hearing him explain about the regime’s violent history and the persecution.
Ding Xiangying from San Francisco discussed how she talks about the persecution to Chinese tourists at the airport.
“I have to tell them not to blindly follow the Party, since persecuting innocent people and the principles of the Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance will not do them any good,” Ding said, according to Minghui.org.
Laurie Gorham, who coordinates Falun Gong practitioners’ activities to raise awareness of the persecution in Sacramento, also spoke at the conference. She shared about the challenges she faces in her volunteer coordination work, how Falun Gong helped her overcome her addiction to sugar, and how she improved herself according to Falun Gong’s principles while taking care of her elderly parents.
The conference began in the morning and lasted until the late afternoon. After the conference concluded there were presentations of videos about Falun Gong and the persecution as well as a musical performance by the Tianguo Marching Band, which is composed of Falun Gong practitioners.