Contact: Craig Chastain, Luis Palau Association, 503-614-1554
BEIJING, Aug. 30 /Christian Newswire/ -- Amidst fanfare seldom seen in China, evangelist Luis Palau and Mr. Zhao Qizheng today released their highly anticipated, co-authored book "Riverside Talks: A Friendly Dialogue between an Atheist and a Christian."
The book's release took place during a packed press conference at the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF). The media event was cut short when the large crowd of assembled journalists, photographers and TV crews rushed forward to interview the authors and get autographed copies of the historic book.
"This is the first time in the history of China that an international religious leader has been permitted to sign copies of his book in a large public secular venue," said Shen Weiping, vice president of the China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC). For the fourth time in two years, the CAIFC hosted Palau at a state dinner held at the Diayutai Government House, considered the "Camp David of China."
Another senior government official said of the press conference, "This is amazing, very un-Chinese and very historic."
At two different press events well-attended by mainstream national Chinese media, Palau carefully explained what it meant to be a true follower of Jesus Christ and how someone can find peace with God.
Mr. Zhao told reporters the book and his friendship with Palau is a model on how two people with different backgrounds and ideologies can have a dialogue with opposing views and still be good friends. Mr. Zhao is Vice Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and former Minister of Information for the People’s Republic of China.
Two years ago, Mr. Zhao suggested to Palau that the two leaders co-author a book in an effort to build bridges and mutual understanding. The suggestion was embraced by Palau, and the two men began a series of face-to-face conversations. The transcripts of those dialogues became the content for the book.
Palau and Zhao reminded journalists that the book represents a dialogue, not a debate, between an atheist and a theist, between a scientist and a Christian evangelist, between a Marxist scholar and a religious scholar, between a leader from the East and a leader from the West.
Palau and Mr. Zhao began their series of the recorded dialogues in Beijing on May 20, 2005 and again in Shanghai on November 16-17, 2005. Over eight hours of dialogue was captured during the three separate meetings. The book is an exchange on philosophy, history, religion, the Bible, creation, atheism, Confucianism, politics, ethics, Chinese and Western cultures, and the relevance of Jesus Christ to society.
Mr. Zhao said, “Through our dialogue, I did overcome somewhat my initial concern about the difficulty of communicating between people with different cultural backgrounds. I now believe that in-depth understanding is possible as long as there is a will to communicate.”
Palau said, “I love China. I want the best for this great nation and everyone within its borders. And now, after getting better acquainted with such a wonderful leader as Mr. Zhao Qizheng, my love and respect for China has only grown greater. I believe with my whole heart that God loves China. I believe He has a special message for China and wants nothing more than to share His love with the entire nation.”
According to Mr. Zhao, “What this book hopes to convey is the conviction that this commonality will enable us to transcend many of the differences and even the misunderstandings among us.”
During previous meetings with reporters in China, Palau said, “We came at it from the points of view of an atheist and a believer, but we soon realized that we have a lot in common as human beings, that we respect each other and that we enjoy each other’s company. I am truly impressed by Mr. Zhao’s knowledge of not only science and philosophy, but also culture, international relations and theology…I hope the book will help Americans understand the mindset of a thinking person in China, his enthusiasm for knowledge and the amazing changes taking place in China.”
Mr. Zhao told the same group of reporters, “Dr. Palau and I are both rather pure species of our two different cultures. Because both of us were very straightforward during our discussions, we were able to breach the barriers posed by different ideologies and exchange views on a wide range of topics… I was deeply touched when Dr. Palau told me he loved China. And because we were sincere and honest, the differences of beliefs did not constitute a barrier between us. Neither did the difference in language or educational background. It is clear that our common objective is to promote global harmony.”
During the third meeting between Palau and Mr. Zhao in Beijing, Palau received a phone call from the White House requesting that he join President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush for a private breakfast and Christian church service in Beijing. Following the church service, Mr. Bush and Mr. Palau met with a contingent of national and international reporters.
President Bush said, “It wasn’t that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society. My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty.”
Palau has been allowed to speak at a variety of events in China since 2000. Some of those events were evangelistic and others promoted charitable activities and opportunities in China. The evangelist’s visits to China have been widely reported, some controversial.
Palau said, “On each visit to China I have made new friends at all levels of society and influence. I have witnessed continued change. I continue to pray these friendships and changes will lead to greater religious freedom.”
Palau believes each trip to China is getting him closer to his life-long dream to one day hold an open-air Festival in China with government approval. According to Palau, “Exciting changes are coming to China as millions of Chinese come to faith in Jesus Christ. These followers of Jesus love China and believe the love of God will bring nothing but positive social and economic change to their great country.”
Palau and Zhao’s Friendly Dialogue book is being released throughout China in government bookstores and in thousands of other outlets in both Chinese and English. The American version of the book is scheduled for release by Broadman & Holman in the coming months.
Among the more interesting exchanges in the book, Palau notes, “The Bible says, ‘God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.’ And that has a moral quality because when it says that God is light, it’s talking about His purity and holiness, that God is perfect. The sun was created by God to illuminate certain parts of the universe, not all of the vast universe, so light existed before the sun, because God is light.”
In another exchange, Palau states, “Jesus says, ‘Mr. Zhao, if you’ll open your heart to me, I will come into your life, forgive all your mistakes and all your sins, give you peace in your conscience. I will send my Spirit into your life. I will give you the assurance of eternal life. I will answer your prayers. I will guide your path. I will bless you in every way…’ ”
Later on, Palau asserts, “Christ has a direct bearing on social stability because a true Christian will respect those in authority. Christ has much impact on intellectual pursuit and eternal life. Christ provides answers to such questions as ‘Who am I?’ ‘Where do I come from?’ ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Where am I heading?’ And, ‘What is the aim of my existence.’ Christ has an impact on our psychological balance, family harmony, social ethics, and the elimination of crime and evil.”
And continuing on, Palau states in the book, “I see millions of Chinese turning their hearts over to Jesus. It’s happening in the last few years. Every generation needs to have a change of heart because a harmonious society cannot come if my heart is evil and your heart is evil and we clash with each other. That’s why it says in the Bible, ‘If anyone is in Christ, you become a new person. The old has passed away and everything has become new.’ It’s a spiritual scientific experiment.”
And later in the book, Palau states, “My dream would be that every Chinese person would find peace with God through Jesus. That’s my dream. Because we all know we’re going to die and the interesting thing is that Jesus offers the absolute assurance of eternal life to every sinner who repents and believes in Him. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect, otherwise nobody would have eternal life. He offers us forgiveness and the assurance of heaven forever when we die. I particularly love this verse from the Gospel of John, ‘The Son of God did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world would be saved.’”
Mr. Zhao responded, “I, too, have a dream. My dream is that the exchanges between religious believers and non-believers will become an important part of contemporary culture. The United States and China are both great nations. The United States is the largest developed country in the world and China is the largest developing country in the world. We should make a more active effort to promote the exchanges between the Chinese and American peoples…It should include religious dialogue and dialogue between religious and non-religious people.”
During this visit to China Palau also met with Mr. Cai Wu, the new Minister of Information. Mr. Cai told Palau that the two of them now needed to write a book together. Mr. Cai said the success of the Riverside Talks book reflects the changing attitude of the government toward religion. He said that, like Mr. Zhao, he believes the book will promote more harmonious and friendly exchanges between leaders from the United States and China.