Hong Kong government must take initiative to resolve crisis, say Church leaders

Anti-extradition bill protesters march to West Kowloon Express Rail Link Station in Hong Kong, China July 7, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter(Photo: Reuters)

Church leaders in Hong Kong have issued an urgent appeal for peace and dialogue as hundreds of thousands turned out once again to protest a controversial extradition Bill. 

Demonstrations, which have at times turned violent, are now in their seventh week and showed no sign of abating on Sunday as the city's residents marched through the streets once again and ignored a police order to stop before they reached the government HQ. 

In a joint statement, Su Chengyi, chairman of the Hong Kong Council of Christian Associations, and Tang Han, acting Cardinal of Hong Kong, pleaded for a return to peace but also said they wanted to see chief executive Carrie Lam respect the will of the people by completely withdrawing the Bill.  

"The people of Hong Kong are extremely worried," they said. 

Other demands in the statement include the creation of an independent committee to "establish the truth".

"All parties must exercise restraint and avoid provocation. Regardless of your position, cherish life and never do harm to yourself or others," they said. 

"[We] call on the government to take the initiative to resolve the current difficulties with representatives of different sectors of society." 

The bill has angered Hong Kong residents because, if enacted, it would allow some suspected criminals to be extradited to the mainland for trial.

The protesters regard this as an affront to the democratic principles supposed to be maintained under the "one country, two systems" system established after the handover from Britain in 1997. 

Lord Alton of Liverpool, speaking at the US State Department's ministerial on religious freedom last week, voiced his support for the Hong Kong protesters as he condemned China over its treatment of Christians and minority faiths, including a million Uighur Muslims imprisoned in re-education camps.

"What a disgrace that we sell face reconstruction and other surveillance equipment to a regime that has incarcerated its own people," he said of the UK.

"Little wonder that millions of protesters in Hong Kong, fearful of losing their right to religious freedom and political freedoms have taken to the streets singing as their anthem, Hallelujah to the Lord.

"I salute the courage of the people of Hong Kong."

Local churches have been praying for a solution to the stand-off.  The Vine Church in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong, said there was a "need for concerted prayer". 

It is asking Christians to pray both individually and corporately for the political issues to be resolved "quickly and decisively", "for anger and frustration to be brought under self-control", for "moderation in speech and action", and "for the church to be a voice of prayer, guidance, reason, moderation, faith, hope and love". 

The church has published a special prayer to be used in connection with Hong Kong: 

Lord God,

We cry out to You for our city in its time of need. Please help those in authority to be humble and wise in their decision making. Help those who are demonstrating to be peaceful and considerate. Please restrain our anger and frustration from creating violence and harm. We need Your intervention to bring about a resolution to this present situation of unrest.

Bring comfort to those who are anxious, fearful, and confused by what they see happening around them. Lord, we ask that You listen to the cries of justice. Lord, without You this situation seems to be hopeless, so we ask for Your wisdom to prevail where human wisdom fails and political expediency takes precedence.

Show Your mighty arm of justice and righteousness in this place and bring about a peaceful outcome to rebuild this broken city.

In Jesus' name, Amen.