Volume 95, Issue 80

Wednesday, March 6, 2002
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Small acts change lives

Editorial Cartoon

Editorial Board 2001-2002

Small acts change lives

Shengli Lin – a man who practices Falun Gong – was recently released from a Chinese labour camp.

During a two-year span, he was tortured and imprisoned for his belief in a spiritual exercise the Chinese government considers to be a cult. Lin gives credit to a petition sent by the Amnesty International group at Western as part of a larger effort that resulted in his freedom.

It is incredible when a small action like signing your name to a piece of paper contributes to something so much bigger.

As students caught in a Western bubble – both our university and our larger society – we often forget about the outside world. We are individualistic not only with our beliefs, but with how willing we are to help others.

Meanwhile, men and women on the other side of the world are tortured and sent to labour camps for their personal spiritual beliefs.

How amazing to see a real, live person standing in front of you who has their freedom thanks to small actions taken by individuals far away. Lin, standing in the hallway of the Social Science Building instead of toiling in a Chinese labour camp, is a tangible result of actions taken in part by a small group of Western students.

He is an example of why it is important to speak for those whose voices have been silenced.

This is not a case of imposing Western self-righteousness on a foreign culture. Rather, it is a question of standing up for basic, universal human rights that transcend borders.

Lin – and countless others – were arrested, tortured and sent to a labour camp for their belief in a peaceful way of life. This continues to be the situation of the Falun Gong in China.

It was through the lobbying efforts of politicians and the legwork of ordinary Canadian citizens that Lin was released.

The petition signed by a campus group played only a small part in a larger movement, but it was important enough for Lin to travel to Western to thank those who signed it.

Lin's story is one of small things making a difference. Fighting for the respect of basic human rights around the world may seem like an uphill battle, but real change can occur. Seeing the decisive results of such efforts may encourage more people to join in campaigns for issues of social justice.

While Lin has been reunited with his wife on Canadian soil, he has left behind thousands of other persecuted Falun Gong practitioners in China.

What acts can be taken to ensure these people have the right to follow their beliefs free from government persecution?

As we have seen, many small acts can be effective when put together.

We need to push for the Falun Gong to have a place on the Canadian government's agenda.

If many individuals each complete one small task, perhaps major changes will result.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002