A Christmas message of hope and peace from The Most Revd Paul Kwong, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong.
Greetings to my dear Citizens of Hong Kong
Christmas in Hong Kong takes on a heavy atmosphere this year and Silent Night is no longer filled with happiness and joy. The anti-extradition bill movement has whipped up a political storm that has rocked the city for the past six months. Combined with external forces, the storm has dealt a heavy blow to the economy and people’s lives. Street conflicts have led to the destruction of shops, restaurants, and public facilities. Violence has also affected tourism, retail, and the catering industries, causing unemployment and disrupting people’s livelihoods.
According to a survey, more than ten thousand people in the retail sector will lose their jobs and seven thousand companies will go out of business in the next few months. A newspaper editorial warns that if social order does not soon return, many industries will experience a financial avalanche and its effects will spread to the whole economy.
Facilities that were physically destroyed may be repaired and a fallen economy may eventually recover, but torn family bonds, friendships, mutual trust, and feelings of unease are not so easily restored. Neither is the rebuilding of compromised freedoms, social stability, and the rule of law.
Over the past several months, friendships that have lasted for decades have ruptured because of differing political views. Conflicts and enmity have erupted within families, and among friends and parishioners. Some young people have even run away from home because their parents and family members did not share their views. Many suffer from mental health problems and symptoms of acute stress disorder, including insomnia, anxiety, extreme emotional fluctuation, confusion, and escapism.
This storm has obliterated the hardware and software of the city’s infrastructure. I believe that all Hong Kongers are asking: how should the city move forward? We may have yet to find a way to emerge from the crisis, but no one who loves Hong Kong wants to see this situation drag on.
The coming of Christmas gives us an opportunity to pause and think about how to walk out of this valley of darkness and return to the path of light. Jesus came to earth as the incarnate God on Christmas. He dwelt among us and built new relationships between God and humankind and among human beings. This creates a bond of love and peace, because in Jesus Christ, all the walls that stood between people are taken down. The rich, the poor, and people of different classes, political views, social status, and races live together in mutual love and peace like sisters and brothers. The birth of Jesus Christ not only gave us a new direction in life, but also gave people the power to accept goodness and abandon evil, so that violence could be turned into peace, conflict could be transformed into tolerance, selfishness could become self-lessness and hatred could change into friendship.
Therefore, Christmas reminds us that political views are not above all things, because the core value of Christmas is “Immanuel”, which is "God with us". “God with us” represents the reconciliation between God and humankind. This reconciliation embodies love, peace, tolerance, mutual trust and mutual acceptance. These are the foundation stones of social stability, harmony and freedom. They are also the essential elements for the peaceful coexistence of people.
The government and protestors should take Christmas as an opportunity to sit down and start a dialogue with courage, sincerity and humility, and to admit their own inadequacies and shortcomings. They should explore ways to respond to society in order to break out of the current dilemma because this is more effective than resorting to violence or shouting slogans. The government should not limit themselves to rigid thinking when they respond to voices from society but should instead take practical measures or actions that are relevant to the needs of the citizens. Moreover, the police force and the people need to find ways of healing the rift that divides them. Only through love for Hong Kong, mutual understanding, rational dialogue, walking together, and resolving animosity and hatred through love, can people hope to lead the city out of this difficult situation, and rebuild stability and mutual trust in Hong Kong, so that everyone can live and work in an environment of freedom and stability.
Lastly, I pray to God to let the citizens of Hong Kong observe a peaceful, quiet, and joyful Christmas in this difficult period.
+ Paul Kwong