Prayers are ongoing for peace and reconciliation
by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Protests in Hong Kong have been going on continuously since June. Things have not gotten better — in fact, the situation has worsened. Clashes between police and protesters have become more frequent and at times more violent.
“Way back in June, Hong Kong never imagined that anti-government protests would still be going on four months later,” said Rev. Judy Chan, mission co-worker serving with the Hong Kong Christian Council. “In fact, many things have happened in the past 100-plus days that were beyond our imagination in a city that last experienced such level of unrest in 1967.”
The protests began on June 9 over a proposed law that would allow the Hong Kong government to send persons charged with certain crimes to mainland China. Opponents said this risked exposing Hong Kongers to unfair trials. They also argued the bill would give China greater influence over Hong Kong and could be used to target activists and journalists.
“The events have left Hong Kongers fearful of what will come next,” said Chan. “There is no quick or obvious solution to the current political and social turmoil. This may last much longer than anyone expected.”
Hong Kong is a former British colony handed back to China in 1997. It has its own judiciary and a separate legal system from mainland China — one country, two systems. Those rights include freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. Those freedoms expire in 2047 and the future is uncertain.
A research study by the University of Hong Kong found that while most of the residents of Hong Kong are ethnic Chinese, and Hong Kong is a part of China, a majority identify themselves as Hong Kongers, not Chinese. The number is particularly high among 18-29- year-olds, who make up a significant part of the protesters.
Some of the young activists have called for independence from China, something that deeply troubles the government in Beijing.
The reaction and participation in the protests are varied. The Hong Kong Christian Council, in its third-quarter newsletter, featured reflections by a pastor, a teacher and a student.
“Although I cannot understand how God’s will is realized, I won’t lose hope,” wrote a university student. “My trust is in the beauty of humanity as exemplified by so many protesters, my belief in an unforeseeable but coming end as history tells, and my faith in the merciful and righteous God who is the beginning and end of the world. No matter how desperate this situation becomes, my last effort is to uphold those beliefs.”
A secondary school teacher said that most of her students are not on the front line of protests — but they have some degree of contribution to the movement.
“I encourage my students to study harder and learn by heart how to analyze complicated social issues instead of acting spontaneously,” she wrote. “Educating my students to acquire critical thinking skills is my responsibility.”
The Rev. Dr. Eric So, chairperson of the Hong Kong Christian Council, finds hope in faith. He cited Hebrews 11: 1-16 as an instructive passage.
“The passage is talking about more than faith. It’s also about hope,” So said. “That means if you have faith, even if the hope is far away, even not realized, then faith is the assurance of hope, the conviction of things not seen. My conclusion is for Christians in Hong Kong, even if there is no turning to a better situation, we know our hope is in God who will lead Hong Kong to his way. So, we continue to pray and to be salt and light of this city.”
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