07/03/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – This is the second part of the interview, where four pastors from Hong Kong shared with ICC their concerns and prediction of the Church’s future, a year after the draconian National Security Law (NSL) was implemented.
While the first article addresses the reasons for two pastors’ departure and what the future holds for the churches in Hong Kong, the second article will discuss possible development for churches and offer much needed encouragement for Hong Kong Christians.
In the last three years, China has adopted several regulations that specifically target unregistered religious groups, namely non-state-sanctioned religious organizations such as the house churches. Given the precedent, ICC asked these church leaders if the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government might enact legislation similar to the Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs.
Reverend Lo Hing-choi, the former leader of the Baptist Convention in Hong Kong, believes that the possibility is there. The SAR government can pass any legislation.
The opinion of Pastor Ben*, a well-respected figure from the Methodist church, is that it is difficult to predict what will happen. It will depend on the church-state relations in the next few years.
Pastor Simon*, a pro-democracy activist, told ICC, “My estimation is that the government will deal with different organizations with different measures. For their ‘eyesore’ such as the Apple Daily, they will ban the group; for other social organizations, I believe they will control them, such as establishing laws or setting up agencies to monitor them. It is possible that they will employ the same measures used to control religion in China in Hong Kong.”
Pastor Eugene*, who fled to the United Kingdom with his family, responded by saying, “This would not be a surprise. If we look at the education system in Hong Kong, the curriculum has already been tightly restricted to go along with the SAR government’s policies. Churches would not be spared. When Carrie Lam ran for the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, she already suggested to establish a religious affairs bureau. But the religious groups in Hong Kong firmly opposed her idea at the time, so she retracted the suggestion,” he said.
“However, a few years have passed, and Beijing is hoping to govern religious affairs, so how China has treated its churches I believe Hong Kong will soon bear actions of the same goal despite having different implementation,” he added.
With an increasing number of Hong Kongers fleeing their motherland, ICC asked these pastors to encourage Hong Kong Christians who still remain in Hong Kong or those who have already escaped.
Rev. Lo said, “Equip yourself well in faith and in truth. Stay alert and keep your heart and mission to serve the society. Continue doing things that Christ’s followers ought to do.”
“When the external pressure increases, the level of which the church organizations would be controlled will increase as well. When the top tier leadership of church organizations is controlled, the congregations need to disperse into various groups to carry on their faith. It is highly likely that the churches in Hong Kong will imitate what the churches in China have been doing,” said Pastor Simon.
Pastor Eugene wants to remind Christians that it is alright to live wherever or even have the thought of “escaping.” Back when the disciples were persecuted, they were dispersed, and God did not blame them. On the contrary, they brought the Gospel with them to different places.
“I encourage those who left to discuss, reach consensus, employ the right values to make decisions among their family members, and truly lean on God. While they are overseas, they should still look up to God. They cannot forget their brothers and sisters in Hong Kong; they certainly should not look on at their fellow Christians’ trouble with indifference. They should encourage, care for, and pray for them,” he said.
For those who are unable to leave, perhaps they are staying with no choice. They still should face each day with positivity. They can be disappointed but cannot despair. Look up to God with faith and call on God’s righteousness to magnify itself. One should not sacrifice his principle of justice for the sake of money, instead, share one’s burden with somebody who is trustworthy and pray for one another.
He continued, “Above all, we firmly believe that God has his unique plan for each person. Therefore, do not judge and criticize each other, this will only divide from within and hurt people.”
Pastor Ben shares similar sentiment. For those who left Hong Kong, he hopes that they can still pursue their faith with passion like they used to when they were in Hong Kong. Certainly, in order to get used to the life in their new homes, it depends on the local churches’ assistance. Hong Kongers can be more in unity, encourage and help each other. He hopes that they can treat where they live as their home, just like the prophet Jeremiah asking the Israelites in exile to pray for the peace of Babylon.
“For those who remain in Hong Kong, do not be upset for not having the opportunity to emigrate; do not be discouraged for seeing the darkness that is present now. The Bible says, ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ We should keep faith and hope, making ourselves the children of light and implementing the truth of the Bible in our life,” he added.
“Be together with other Christians who seek justice, peace, and love, encourage one another,” he concluded.
*Name changed for security reasons.