November 13, 2017 - Issue: Vol. 163, No. 185 — Daily Edition115th Congress (2017 - 2018) - 1st Session
REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 185
(Extensions of Remarks - November 13, 2017)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E1557-E1558] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM ______ HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH of new jersey in the house of representatives Monday, November 13, 2017 Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, George Orwell wrote, in his novel 1984, ``Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.'' The context of this slogan is Winston's struggle to maintain his memory, his vital connection to truth--against the evil ambition of the all-powerful party to control what we remember of the past, and, through that, to control the pathways into the future. That is also the context in which the Victims of Congress Memorial Foundation carries on its work. This outstanding foundation held a landmark three-day conference in Washington last week, marking 100 years since the Bolshevik revolution unleashed the evils of communism on the world. The foundation works to ensure that the memories, the real experiences of millions of people who suffered under communism are preserved--notwithstanding the efforts of powerful persons, ideologies, and interests, for whom the memory of the horrific crimes of communism must be forgotten, or more or less subtly distorted so as to promote their own contemporary agendas. On one level, reluctance to remember the communist crimes might seem an understandable human weakness--the sheer scale of communist crimes is so vast that it beggars our power of comprehension. Since 1917 communism has claimed at least 100 million lives, in the Soviet Union, China, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, Indochina, Africa, Afghanistan and parts of Latin America according to the painstaking research of demographers. Writing in the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago, Professor Stephen Kotkin specified that in China, ``Mao's program resulted in one of history's deadliest famines, claiming between 16 and 32 million victims.'' On Cambodia: ``All told, perhaps as many as 2 million Cambodians; a quarter of the population, perished as a result of starvation, disease and mass executions during the four nightmarish years of Pol Pot's rule.'' Yet we have a duty to remember the past accurately. Rather than dwell, today, on the many ways in which the memory of communist crimes has been obliterated or retouched, let's consider one thing that is common to most, if not all, of them: they deny the profound spiritual significance of the victims' experiences, and of the perpetrator's crimes. No one has been more eloquent in calling us back to this than Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In 1983 the great writer received the Templeton Prize, which is made to honor an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension. He opened his remarks with these memorable words: More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened. Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened. Solzhenitsyn recalled us forcefully to the spiritual values that were always at stake in the communist assault on humanity--and remain at stake in the struggle to maintain the memory of what communism perpetrated on the peoples who fell victim to it. Over my many years in Congress, I have been blessed to meet and work with many other men and women who have been great living witnesses to the effort to maintain a true memory of the crimes of communism. It's no coincidence that most of them have also been witnesses to God, and came into conflict with communism for that very reason. Thirty-seven years ago, during my first term in Congress, I read Tortured for Christ by Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand. It is the true story of unspeakable physical torture and psychological abuse of underground Christians under Romania's Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu--and of Pastor Wurmbrand's harrowing 14-year incarceration. Wurmbrand had defied the communists by declaring openly that Communism and Christianity were incompatible. Sabina, his brave wife, stood by him and also suffered prison and forced labor for her faith. In 1964 the Wurmbrands were ransomed out of Romania for $10,000, and in 1966 Richard testified before Congress, taking off his shirt to show Americans the scars from his torture. Like so many, both my wife Marie and I read his book and were inspired by Pastor Wurmbrand's indomitable faith, breathtaking courage and hope and challenged by his admonishment to believers to cease enabling evil by our naivete, cold-hearted indifference or cowardly complicity. After being drugged and beaten Pastor Wurmbrand said he was in such bad shape that he even forgot the words to the Lord's Prayer so he simply prayed: ``Our Father I have forgotten the prayer, but you surely know it by heart. . . .'' Russia gave us many witnesses to the ugly reality of communism. In the 1980s, my first religious freedom mission was to Moscow and Leningrad in 1982 on behalf of Soviet Jews--the heroic refuseniks, like Natan Sharansky. I got to know many of them and their families. And when in 1989 Frank Wolf and I visited Perm Camp 35 the prisoners told us of their hunger--for food, and for Scripture as well. In Moscow I also met, and prayed with the Siberian Seven--a group of Pentecostal Christians who fled to the U.S. Embassy and lived there for five years until finally getting exit visas. During that trip--and many subsequent trips to meet Orthodox clergy and believers--began to grasp Alexander Solzhenitsyn's astute observation that communism doesn't merely believe that God does not exist, it hates Him. Solzhenitsyn called it ``militant atheism''. Like many of you I saw that hate throughout the Soviet Union, in Romania, the Warsaw Pact Countries--and that God-hatred continues to thrive today within dictatorships like North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and China. China has produced many witnesses, and because its communist dictatorship endures, and even hardens its militancy, today, we all have the opportunity to meet those who witness and document its crimes against the Chinese people. As the chair of the China Commission I have many times heard testimony from Bob Fu, Wei Jingsheng, Chai Ling, Harry Wu, Joseph Kung, and so many others. [[Page E1558]] One of the most memorable encounters I had was in China itself, in 1994. I had the awesome privilege of a private meeting with Bishop Su Zhimin. Bishop Su was the leader of the underground Catholic Church in Hebei province. We met at dawn, for an outdoor Mass with many other believers. As we spoke and then prayed, the Bishop prayed for his persecutors, he prayed for the misguided leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. Bishop Su's body bore witness to the brutality of China's Communist Party. He was beaten, starved, and tortured for this faith and spent some 40 years in prison. Yet, he prayed not just for the persecuted church, but for the conversion of those who hate, torture and kill. His witness and his faith absolutely amazed me. Love those who hate you as Christ did from the cross? Do good to those who persecute you? For Bishop Su these were more than words, it was his faithful and faith filled response to one of our Lord's most difficult teaching. Unfortunately, only couple years later Bishop Su was arrested again and disappeared. He has not been heard from since. Over and over in the lives of these heroic witnesses, we see that the effort to stand up for the truth against the communists cost them a great deal. Sometimes it cost them everything but their lives--and almost that too. To follow in their footsteps, to remember the truth of what communism really was and did, will cost us something too. We will have to remember that what was at stake with communism was not a question of competing economic systems or system of social organization, but the question of God--the human being deprived of any divine connection. This will require us to swim upstream, against the dominant mentality. We will have to think, and at times to speak and act, differently. And this will not always be welcome. We owe a profound debt of gratitude to the foundation and its supporters, who have done so much to honor the memory of the victims of communism. ____________________