RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 24, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The 30th Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, sponsored by the Catholic lay Communion and Liberation movement, is drawing record-breaking numbers.
On Sunday, the opening Mass of the weeklong conference, held every summer in Rimini, Italy, drew more than 10,000 people, the largest crowd since the first event 30 years ago.
In the homily, Bishop Francesco Lambiasi of Rimini affirmed: "Jesus Christ is the fulcrum of the whole of human history."
"We Christians have believed and known," the prelate affirmed, and "the principle of Christian faith is the love that nourishes confidence and knowledge."
"Faith," he added, "is light and knowledge." Because of this it can be said that "he who does not believe in Jesus does not truly know reality."
The conference, which started Sunday and will run through Saturday, is centered around the theme: "Knowledge Is Always an Event."
A press release from the conference Web site explained that this theme will explore "the human being, his relationship with the world and the dynamics by which he knows reality."
Over 700,000 people are expected at the meeting, which is being facilitated by more than 3,100 volunteers.
Aside from the Italians, other volunteers come from Russia, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, Kosovo, France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Canada, the United States and Paraguay.
As explained by its organizers, the Rimini meeting seeks to "create points of contact between experiences and people of different faiths and cultures who share a positive desire for knowledge and reciprocal enhancement."
In this context, one of Sunday's presenters, Harry Wu, who spent 19 years imprisoned in the Chinese labor camps known as "laogai," denounced his homeland's denial of religious liberty.
He lamented that there is no freedom of worship in China, and stated that "Catholicism is still illegal."
Wu continued: "All the churches and temples are government property. There is a religion of the state, which is communism. I was Catholic, and for this reason I was persecuted."
Under this communist regime, he stated, more than 50 million people have been killed, which is more than those murdered by the Holocaust and under Stalin's administration.
Wu, the founder of the Laogai Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has been documenting the crimes and violations of human rights committed in these concentration camps, described the situation of those who live and die in the laogai.
He explained, "In 1950 Stalin's experts went to China to develop the concentration camps, and this system remains today."
"By now we count that there are at least about a thousand laogai," Wu said. "Here prisoners work 12 hours a day without receiving any wage from the government, producing commodities that are sold in the Western markets."
He also spoke about other problems in his homeland, including "30 thousand organ transplant operations in 2006." The human rights activist explained that "95% of those organs come from people condemned to death."
As well, he noted the fact that Chinese women are "obliged to abort" if they get pregnant a second time, which had led to some 30 million abortions a year.
Wu also denounced China's policies of "repression and massacres" against Tibetans and Uyghurs.
The government, he said, is "not a party of proletarians but it is an organization that makes profits doing business with the West."
Wu urged all Westerners: "When eating on your filled plates, remember that the Chinese cannot go to Church, that they are not free to access the Internet or to criticize their government. Speaking of elections in China is meaningless. There is no voting in China, only talk of the economy, of money."
[With information from Antonio Gaspari]
--- --- ---
On the Net:
Rimini Meeting: www.meetingrimini.org/default.asp?id=825