I've only recently learned what a lot of people already know:  the well-advertised Shen Yun dance extravaganza is put on by the Falun Gong, a religious sect many mainstream Chinese tend to demonize or at least look  down upon.

What I've known for a longer time is North America, Pennsylvania in particular, hosts the spiritual leader of a similarly persecuted religious sect, the Sufi mystic, Fethullah Gülen.

The story there, as I tell it, is young, idealistic, intelligent Turkish people were attracted by the constructively democratic message of this Hizmet sect and enjoyed an early honeymoon with the general public, until suspicions grew and people got paranoid.  Hizmet (meaning "service") sent people all over the world, to open schools and clinics.

Turkish officialdom then turned on the Gulenists, accusing them of plotting against the government and to this day many are imprisoned (NATO dare say nothing).  Pastor Andrew Brunson's story is apropos here.  He was imprisoned in Turkey for two years, many tellers agreeing, as a bargaining chip, to someday exchange for the Sufi (wanted for crimes in Turkey's SufiGate crisis).

The pattern was similar in China.  Initially the Communist Party welcomed the Falun Gong.  More people were getting up early to do their exercises.  The mental discipline seemed like a plus.  But was this religious ideology ultimately competing with party ideology to become number one in the hearts of the people?  If so, it would have to be squelched given the "no room for two" insecurities of political systems more generally.

Methinks it's still in our Quaker DNA (I mean that figuratively) to know what it's like to be a persecuted sect, with nowhere to go but America.  This part of the world was specifically engineered to serve the Asylum Seekers, Quakers among them.  That's why I consider it part of my practice to celebrate and elaborate on (contribute to) this engineering. 

We're not about eagerly helping foreign governments "stamp out" all traces of whatever ethnicity.  On the contrary, we as a people develop stronger antibodies (a good thing) to the extent we keep building up our practice of symbiosis ("getting along").  Our political thinking as Friends is less dangerously brittle (fragile) to the extent it's bolstered by strong Quaker values.

That being said, I'm not suggesting people just roll over when nasty gangs come to town to gain a foothold, by treating others as their prey.  I distinguish between religious sects with a message of service, and economic syndicates, human traffickers, although there's sometimes a fine line. 

I also emphasize that providing a sect with asylum does not translate into protecting it from all criticism.  Freedom of religion does not mean denying people the right to cast some or all religions in a negative light. 

Some critics portray Falun Gong as anti-queer (variously interpreted).  Religious sects are like that: prone to biased viewpoints (the NRA is like that too).  That's what we mean by diversity.

Americans have put a lot of thought into how to balance all these tendencies. I'm happy to contribute to those thoughts.  It's something of a high wire act.

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