Born-again Christian Chai Ling, former leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protest, comforts the overseas Chinese students traumatized by the Boston Marathon bombings.
Chinese students have expressed fear and confusion since their fellow Chinese graduate student Lu Linzi, 23, was killed from the blasts near the finish line of Boston Marathon. Some have asked questions that they have never asked before.
Over a thousand students filled the memorial service held for Lu last Monday evening. She was her parent's only child in Shenyang, China.
Chai, founder of Boston-based nonprofit All Girls Allowed, sent out a letter of hope to the Chinese student communities in Boston and America on April 26. She hopes to reach out to them before they return to China in the next few weeks.
"Feeling scared? About the feeling of being out of control of your own safety and destiny? It could happen to you. Dreams shattered? You thought this country was safe and full of freedom, like heaven, but not anymore," Chai wrote.
She said the students have questions, but may avoid them, because they think there might not be an answer. Yet, “deep in your heart, your mind could not stop thinking and searching,” she wrote, explaining that she understands how they feel because she has been there before.
"23 years ago, I came to America, without friends and family, to study,” she said. “As some of you may know from my background, I was at Tiananmen Square during the student movement in 1989, and stayed there until the last hour before the massacre that took place on June 4th. I was spared from death.”
“I came to America to finish my education and to find freedom and peace," she said.
Chai obtained her graduate degrees from Princeton and Harvard, and then founded a successful software company. In 2001, she married Robert Maginn and now has three daughters.
While her dream seemed to have come true, however, she said she was “shaken to the core” on Sept. 11, 2001. Leaving their infant daughter behind, she and her husband were scheduled to take a flight from Boston that very same day.
“We could have been on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trader Center,” she recalled. Afterwards, she said she tried to regain control by writing out her will, organized all her affairs, and got more life-insurance just in case anything happened. Yet, that unsettling fear and lack of peace haunted her in the subsequent years.
In December 2009, Chai's life completely changed – she accepted Jesus as her Lord and savior. “He completely took away my fear and gave me a peace that surpasses understanding,” she wrote.
Through faith in God, Chai realized how secure her life is in God’s hands. “All my days are numbered and not a hair can fall from my head without God’s approval. When the work that God has prepared for me to do in my life is complete, I will go back to be with my Father in heaven,” she said.
With this peace, Chai said she responded differently towards the Boston Marathon bombing. “I was able to comfort my three children with the same peace God gave to me, so they could watch the bombing events unfolding without being completely terrified or traumatized,” she wrote.
“This is the message of hope I would like to give you,” she said, emphasizing that this good news of the gospel has brought “hope and comfort” to her heart, giving her the courage to today and tomorrow.
“I feel that God wants you to know how much He loves each and every one of you. He hears the cries and questions in your hearts, and He wants to speak to you.”
Chai quoted two Bible passages from Isaiah 43, verse 1 to 2 and Psalm 46, verse 1.
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you." (Isaiah 43:1-2)
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
She then urged, "Come to God, to be strong and courageous!”