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Orphan Benefit Concert Enchants and Informs
Evan Mantyk

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CAMBRIDGE, M.A.—Tang Dynasty beauties lined up wave their arms at once, creating a moving image of a multi-armed Buddha. Then, the triumphant and blaring sound of Mozart performed by a string quartet fills the church-like surroundings. Later, dancers covered in blood act out their imprisonment and torture in China.

Inside the elegant and solemn Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, an eclectic collection of Western and Chinese performances was held to raise money for children orphaned by the persecution of Falun Gong in China on Sept. 18.

“The bright music is to show what the future of these children should be,” said cellist Kalin Ivanov, who performed with the Forte String Quartet. It was Ivanov’s second time donating his time to perform at the benefit concert.

The Orphan Rescue Benefit Concert on Sunday was the fifth put on by the Global Mission to Rescue Falun Gong Practitioners (GMR).

Over 200 children have been orphaned by the persecution of Falun Gong in communist China, said Dr. Haiyang He, president and founder of GMR. “The real number of children orphaned is likely much higher,” said Dr. He.

Falun Gong, a peaceful mediation practice, was banned by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999, after the practice had become widely popular. Since then, over 2,700 deaths connected to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners have been confirmed, while the actual number remains unknown.

The orphans have lost either one or both of their parents because of the persecution of Falun Gong, said Dr. He. With help from donations, Dr. He said they have been able to collect more information, successfully rescue two children, and hold postcard and petition drives aimed at getting support from the U.S. government.

In 2004, GMR was able to reunite Amy Lee of New York with her daughter, Dou Dou. GMR members made phone calls to ask authorities in China to release the girl by issuing her a passport, according to Dr. He. At the same time, GMR closely worked with Amy and was able to get help from Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano. Capuano contacted the Chinese embassy in the United States and government officials in China to urge them to issue Doudou a passport. Capuano also contacted the U.S. embassy in China to finally bring Dou Dou to the United States.

Before coming to the United States, Ms. Lee herself had been detained in China for refusing to give up practicing Falun Gong. In a Beijing detention center, she was beaten, stripped naked, shocked with electric batons, and deprived of sleep.

Now, GMR is looking for further help from the U.S. government and governments of other countries. Dr. He cites “Operation Peter Pan” in the 1960s, when the U.S. government intervened and rescued 14,000 children from communist Cuba. “It can be done,” said Dr. He.

Currently, GMR is planning to hold orphan rescue concerts in Europe, Australia, and Taiwan before the end of the year.

Giving their Time

Like Ivanov and other performers, Dr. He donates his time to work for GMR. Normally, he is a medical researcher at Harvard Medical School.

Violinist and orphan concert performer Arman Mourzagaliev said, “Children have always been a sensitive issue for me, and I’ve always wanted to help.” A professional performer, Mourzagaliev has played with chamber groups in Russia, Khazakhstan, Europe, and the United States.

Ivanov and his quartet grew up in Eastern Europe, where they also experienced repression of their freedom under communist governments. “The communists don’t like freedom, they like to be on top on everything,” said Ivanov. The quartet is celebrating its 15th anniversary and currently tours throughout the United States.

Singer Drew Parker said, “Its just terrible that little children and their families are broken up like this.” Parker, who sang a song he specially composed for the performance, started practicing Falun Gong himself in 2000. Parker does computer programming in North Carolina, but has also been into music since he was young. He said he benefited so much from the meditation practice and its teachings that he felt he had to help those people being persecuted for practicing Falun Gong in China.

“It’s just the little bit I can do to help,” said Parker.

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