Hong Kong Bishops: Freedom Movement Began in the Church, Not in the Street, “Cannot be Stopped”
Overlooked and ignored by the world’s mainstream press, Hong Kong’s humanitarian uprising against the judicial tyranny of Beijing’s Communist oppression has transitioned into a full blown street ministry revival, with accounts of a wildfire of person-to-person awakening capturing a movement of faith that transcends political messaging and strikes at the heart of a spiritual battle against the oppression of the human spirit.
In a viral video (translated from Cantonese by this author who lived and traveled extensively in China in 1995,) Catholic Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing leads an ecumenical prayer outside Hong Kong’s legislative assembly building, encouraging protesters that the spirit of Christ has touched their hearts with the message of freedom and justice.
“I don’t care. No matter how long they stay, I will continue to stay with them. The shepherd should not just be with the sheep but also guide them.”
Still, even as a street level wildfire of spiritual revival sweeps through a movement birthed in protests against Beijing abuses of judicial tyranny and demands that Hong Kong bend to the extradition of dissidents and criminals to the Chinese mainland for prosecution and incarceration, Catholic leadership remains divided over whether to steer protesters into compliance with government policies or to back humanitarian demands for due process and deference to Hong Kong judicial autonomy.
The Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong, Diocesan Youth Commission of Hong Kong and the Justice and Peace Group of the Franciscans organized a Mass and a prayer meeting.
Bishop Ha reminded the faithful that the protesters were Christians first and foremost and advancers of human liberty as a result of their faith. As evidenced by recent videos chronicling the protests, crowds have adopted the Christian anthem, “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,” as their spiritual anthem and assembled humanitarian prayer for the fate of their movement on the verge of bloody intervention by the Beijing government that experts agree will dwarf 1989’s Tiananmen Square uprising in terms of carnage and recrimination.
“Even though the government did many things that we don’t like and were very wrong, we cannot demonize them, because this is not our faith request,” he said.
Still, Bishop Ha has spoken openly about the roots of an uprising for freedom that he acknowledges began not in street level protests but in the pews and sanctuaries of Christian denominations across Hong Kong.
In his homily at a Mass June 16, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, thanked God that Hong Kong has so many people who care about justice before issuing what some believe a premature declaration of victory for the anti-extradition forces.
“Although we won this battle, we need to continue to use peace, love and justice to arouse society, and Christ will stand by us,” he said.
Recent statements by Bishop Ha would seem in agreement, as he calls for protestes to stand strong in solidarity with the message of Christ.
“God is alive in the hearts of the people of Hong Kong,” Bishop Ha said, in the lobby area of the Hong Kong legislative council.
“He stands with us as we pass through the fire.”
Crowds in Hong Kong’s recitation of Cantonese and English language expressions of Christian faith have numbered more than 2-million, even as government and media have attempted to describe the crowds as much smaller, in some reports as low as 338,000.