Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a new religious movement founded by Li Hongzhi in China in 1992. Based on a mix of Buddhist and New Age principles, it began as a form of qigong, a worldview that aims to strengthen a person’s vital energies through bodily movement. Adherents of Falun Gong believe their teachings and practices are the sole means of attaining Consummation — a state in which humans apprehend the real meaning of the universe and become Gods or Buddha. The primary moral tenets of the worldview are truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. Falun Gong is not without its social and political controversies, particularly in its very public disagreements with the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party. Falun Gong was labeled an “evil sect” and banned in China in 1999. Practitioners claim that they have suffered tremendous persecution at the hands of the Chinese government, including imprisonment, torture, and non-consensual organ harvesting. But there has been a shift of Falun Gong followers from China to North America since the early 2000s. Westerners are being swayed by the Falun Gong and may not even realize it. Whether it’s through the popular conservative newspaper, the Epoch Times, or their touring dance troupe, Shen Yun, the Falun Gong have become a widespread presence on social media and in theaters worldwide. Recently, they have become more political and have promoted conspiracy theories on their various media platforms. Christians should work toward two primary tasks when it comes to Falun Gong: first, they should be aware of the new religious movement so they can respond with gentleness and respect and not fall prey to their beliefs; and second, Christians should have compassion for Falun Gong practitioners because they have been and continue to be victimized in China.
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