In the latest edition of the “Meeting” in Rimini, organized by the ecclesial movement “Communion and Liberation”, were presented the conversion stories of two intellectuals born under state atheism.
The first one is Tianyue Wu, professor of philosophy at Peking University: «I come from a Catholic family but for me it was hard to embrace religion», he said. «At school they would teach us that religions are just superstitions, monsters that belong to a dead and buried past. Chinese society is completely secularized, with its “Carpe diem” motto, and Chinese people have now adopted a cynical and utilitarian attitude, due to the major economic growth and the consequent spiritual impoverishment». However, he stated, «After so many years of atheist education people still feel that they need to find something that goes beyond life on earth».
China is a country where already the early missionaries found it hard to «introduce the idea of a transcendent God among people who thought that the only thing that existed was life on earth, nothing else». What is more, the «communist government made things worse by using atheism as an essential part of its ideology, as it sent the missionaries away, as it closed churches and forced the priests that were left not to exercise their ministry.» Even after Mao’s death and the reopening of churches, «the background remained hostile to religion. On the one side this was a difficulty, on the other it was a bright side for believers: you were forced to ask yourself which where the reasons for believing and to gain a deeper consciousness of yourself».
«In a secularized society as China is, I believe that reason and the rational thought of Saint Thomas, Saint Augustine and Aristotle may represent the best way to get closer to faith »; this is why he started to hold lectures about them, even if they weren’t very successful at first. But «if I had given up, and had discussed topics which were more popular, I wouldn’t have given to my students the chance to realize how faith and reason are actually bond. And today many are those who attend my lectures». He confessed: «I’m sure that when I show the rationality of faith, even through the “Summa” of Thomas Aquinas, I sow a seed in the heart of my students which will help them face such a secularized time as ours, so full of challenges».
Here below the testimony of Tianyue Wu
Russian Aleksandr Filonenko was the another guest of the “Meeting“; educated as nuclear physicist, he is theologian as a passion and philosopher as a profession. From the very beginning he, too, rejected Christianity, because he thought it was boring: «We were taught that religion was nothing more than a way to compensate. If you were ill or weak, you would need the crutch of religion in order to be able to walk; on the contrary, if you were atheist, then you could do without it. And I felt I was strong.»
As he was 20, something started to change after he read about the life of father Pavel Florenskij, the Russian philosopher, mathematician and priest condemned to 10 years in the lager: «It struck me to read how father Pavel could keep his energy as a scholar and a creative person, even in the lager. I couldn’t help asking myself: where is this energy coming from? And when I discovered that it came from the relationship with Christ, I thought: “If he, too, is a sick man, an invalid, then I also want to be with the invalids and not with the atheists, who are awfully more boring“». Thus he started to look for «someone to follow, who could lead me to Christ, because I didn’t know how to get there by myself»; it’s a mystery how he met Antonio di Surozh, founder of the Orthodox church of England. «When I met him», he explained, «I got the essence of his message: if you want to get to know Christ, you’ve got to be open to an encounter, from which faith begins. Faith begins in the joy that we feel when we realize that God calls us by name »
Here below the testimony of Aleksandr Filonenko