Our director-in-charge is honored for his contribution to religious liberty, as part of a day of events devoted to denouncing persecution and advancing religious freedom.
At the International Book Fair of Turin, Italy, the second largest book fair in Europe, every year several FIRMA (International Festival of Religions, Music, and Arts) Awards honor personalities who promoted religious liberty and interreligious dialogue throughout the world. This year, the awards ceremony was part of a public event on religious persecution at the Book Fair, preceded by a private session of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, the first ever in Italy, at Terrazza Solferino. Several religious groups and NGOs attended the roundtable, together with Italian politicians and U.S. diplomats. Among the themes discussed at the Roundtable was the situation of Chinese refugees from The Church of Almighty God who come to Europe fleeing religious persecution. Less than 15% of them are granted asylum in Europe, against 85% in Canada and almost 100% in New Zealand.
In the public event, the movie Tiananmen and Religious Persecution in China, produced by Bitter Winter, had its first screening in Italy. The movie remembers the events of June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square in Beijing and discusses how they influenced religion in China, both by contributing to a religious revival and by scaring the CCP leaders, determining the subsequent crackdown on all religions.
A refugee from The Church of Almighty God told his experience of persecution and torture in China, followed by similar tragic stories reported by a member of the Ahmadiyya Community, a Muslim religious movement persecuted in Pakistan and Algeria.
The FIRMA awards honored personalities who promoted religious liberty and human rights throughout the world and in Italy: Dr. Hong Tao Tze, from Taiwan, founder of the qi gong school Tai Ji Men and of the Federation of World Peace and Love; Apostle Naasón Joaquín García, leader of the church la Luz del Mundo, headquartered in Mexico, and of its network of humanitarian and charitable activities; Greg Mitchell, founder of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable; and Italian Pentecostal journalist and champion of religious liberty, Alessandro Iovino.
The media award for a journalism promoting religious liberty went to Marco Respinti, director-in-charge for Bitter Winter. In accepting the award, Respinti said he understands the jury did not intend to honor him alone, but all the staff of Bitter Winter, including the news editor Arune Kontautaitė, the webmasters, translators and editors of the editions in eight different languages, and above all the brave reporters who constantly risk being arrested for sending news, videos, and photographs from China.
The main daily newspaper in Turin, La Stampa, covered the event in an article published in its respected section about religion.