Tensions are rising in Hong Kong with each new day.
Citizen activists are protesting government regulations and crackdowns, and military police are retaliating at every turn, resulting in violence throughout the city.
But Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing and other Christians in the region are doing their best to bring God’s peace into the situation.
The demonstrations in Hong Kong, a special administrative city of China, have repeatedly pitted pro-government groups and governmental officials against pro-democracy protestors.
Students and young people throughout the city are demanding more freedom and more autonomy from mainland Communist China.
Many of these protests have turned ugly, resulting in injuries and insults. Pro-government groups have referred to protestors as “cockroaches” and “yellow objects,” while protestors respond by labeling police officers as “dogs” for their blind obedience to a questionable regime.
Many of the protestors have accused police officers of brutality and sexual assault, and more than one protestor has died due to injuries sustained in altercations with police.
Through it all, the Bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Ha Chi-shing, has tried to extend a hand of love and a voice of reason.
Bishop Ha has long been involved in the city’s political scene, standing in solidarity with students and protestors, and advocating for freedom and safety for the city’s residents. But he’s also recognized that the violence is now coming from both sides.
“I have seen a lot of public properties being destroyed, but what I could not see was that countless souls, especially the hearts of young people, were eroded and tortured,” the bishop said, reflecting on the cost of the battle between pro-government and pro-democracy groups.
The bishop called for a public prayer meeting in late October, praying that “God can help us realize that everyone is human, not cockroaches, dogs, or yellow objects.”
He also addressed the violence that’s growing in protest groups, cautioning that their recent adoption of the slogan “Hong Kong people, revenge” was dangerous.
“Everyone has emotions, and the slogan is also part of the emotion, but we will know that this is not correct when we have calmed down and thought twice about it,” he urged.
“The truth will set us free and enable us to move forward. No one can live in a lie.”
Far from putting all his warnings on the protestors, however, Bishop Ha has called for peace from the government’s side of the issue as well. He was also the driving force behind a recent investigation into the death of a student protestor.
“I do worry about the safety of the protestors, especially the young ones,” he said.
“Feeling sad, helpless, and sometimes even furious is not unusual. However, we must prevent sadness developing into hopelessness, prevent anger turning into hatred.”
The Hong Kong government’s actions towards protestors and citizens have provoked much anger and hatred over the last several months, but it’s difficult to know if the authorities in Hong Kong will heed Bishop Ha’s wisdom.
In the meantime, the bishop is urging Christians in the area to pray and fast for their city.
“We’re Catholics and we’re part of our community,” he said. “We’re obliged to participate in improving our community and [speak] out when there’s injustice.”
Bishop Ha has established “Friday fasting” throughout Hong Kong, a time in which Catholics can fast and offer much-needed prayers for their city.
Bishop Ha isn’t the only believer involved in Hong Kong’s plea for freedom. At the head of the movement are many young Catholics, including Agnes Chow and Joshua Wong, who credit their faith as their inspiration for activism.
“I do think that my participation in social movements is affected by my religion,” said Agnes Chow, a 22-year-old student. “I believe that many other Christians and Catholics in Hong Kong…care a lot about society.”
“I do think that the religious belief and what we learn from our religion and the Bible gives us our belief and courage to fight for freedom and rights for Hong Kong people.”
Joshua Wong added, “Christianity teaches me that the most powerful being is God…for me, the teaching of Christianity has laid a good foundation to be concerned about…many other social justice issues.”
Wong has served time in prison for his faith-driven activism, but he continues to work alongside Bishop Ha and other Christians to advocate for his city.
The protestors in Hong Kong are full of Christians like Bishop Ha who care for their community and are determined to preserve religious and societal freedoms.
So let us pray for our brothers and sisters – for their safety, for their courage, and for the victory of God’s peace and truth.