A Saintly Nun and Her Chinese Host Seek Common Ground for Their Humanitarian Concerns
"Regardless of social systems," said Deng, the eldest of Deng Xiaoping's five children and the deputy director of the Chinese Welfare Fund for the Handicapped, "we are doing the same thing for the same purpose," and added with a nervous laugh, "I myself am an atheist." But the Albanian-born Roman Catholic nun and founder of the nearly 2,500-member Missionaries of Charity, who was on her first visit to China, did not let Deng's comment pass unnoticed. "The same loving hand created you and me," she told him. "In your heart you have a desire to love God. You put that desire into action and that is love."
Like his twice-purged father, Deng suffered cruelly during Mao's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s when, as a university student, he was hurled from a fourth-floor window by rampaging Red Guards. He suffered a spinal injury that left him permanently paralyzed below the waist. In the post-Mao era, his politically disgraced father would, ironically, emerge as China's paramount leader (despite Deng Xiaoping's modest official title of Chairman of the Central Advisory Commission).
The younger Deng, meanwhile, has become the prime spokesperson for China's estimated 20-million handicapped. In a land where crippled people are often treated as outcasts, Deng could report proudly to his visitor that now "in many Chinese cities, handicapped people who can work have been employed."
Yet it was Deng's visitor who seemed to get in the last word on spiritual matters. Are Communists also sons of God, Mother Teresa was asked by a foreign reporter? "Naturally," she replied. "We're all God's children."
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