Dear Citizens of Hong Kong:
Christmas is not only a day for celebration, it is also an important moment that changed the history of humankind and transformed lives. The birth of Christ brought good news to all people on earth: God has been incarnated on earth and has brought us life that is abundant and eternal. Through Him, we learn of the meaning and value of life. God cherishes and loves all men and women, irrespective of their skin colour, race, and religion. He values each and every one of us.
Unfortunately, many of us neither understand the true meaning of Christmas nor cherish life. According to WHO statistics, approximately 800,000 people commit suicide every year worldwide, and over one hundred million people are affected by such act. Based on the Coroner’s Court statistics, the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of the University of Hong Kong estimated that 12.4 out of every 100,000 people committed suicide in 2017. Compared to 2016, the number has fallen by 0.1. Although the suicide rate in Hong Kong is lower than the global rate, the estimated suicide rate of the age group 15 to 24 has increased from 8.3 in 2012 to 9.5 in 2016. Within this age group, the number of suicides committed by full-time students has risen by 52 per cent, and compared to 2012, the suicide rate has increased by 76 per cent. This means that for every 100,000 students, 8.1 committed suicide.
Causes for suicides are often complex and diverse, mostly involving family troubles, emotion issues, academic concerns, mental illnesses or financial problems. Those who commit suicide not only forfeit their own lives, but also perpetrate irreparable mental damages onto their family, friends and teachers. Plagued by guilt and tormented by negative emotions, some relatives and friends of victims might even fall into depression themselves.
Every suicide is a tragedy one too many and preventing them is better than dealing with its aftermath. To achieve this, all members of society must join hands in taking practical action.
We understand that preventing suicide is not an easy task and efforts might not yield immediate results. Yet, it does not mean that there is nothing we can do. As a priority, the government should provide sufficient resources to support agencies and religious organisations to create and enact suicide prevention policies and projects in areas such as education, social service, healthcare, and social media. These projects should help teachers, social workers and parents to communicate with youths-in-need and understand their troubles.
The government should also conduct a thorough review on the education system and school curriculums. They should look beyond academic achievements and student numbers and introduce life and spiritual education curriculums to cultivate holistic development in young people. People need to be taught about life when they are still young and learn to adopt the correct attitude in the face of both prosperity and adversity.
Life education, especially Christian religious education, contributes greatly to young people in their development of a correct and positive outlook on life. It encourages them to search for faith. People with religious belief understand the meaning of life. They are thankful when they achieve success, they rely on God when they face hardship, and have the courage to seek help from others. With courage, hope and faith, they overcome difficult situations.
Christmas teaches us that by relying on Jesus Christ, we can achieve hope and the ability to live abundant lives because Christ has promised that “in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33).
My hope is that every one of you is filled with joy when you welcome the Saviour into your lives. May you have courage, energy, love, and hope to overcome life’s challenges and sufferings in times of adversity or prosperity, and may you live abundant and meaningful lives.
I wish all citizens of Hong Kong a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May the Lord’s blessing be with you always.
+ Paul Kwong