‘Silence is a voice’: Reverend Paul Kwong denies discouraging people from speaking up on politics

Archbishop responds to storm after his sermon cited Jesus staying silent in face of crucifixion

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 2:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2014, 4:17am

The archbishop of the Hong Kong Anglican Church has denied he was trying to discourage people from speaking up on political issues in a controversial sermon during which he pointed to the example of Jesus remaining silent in the face of crucifixion.

The Most Reverend Paul Kwong told a church newsletter that Jesus’s silence was, in fact, a “voice” – a “peaceful, tolerating, accepting voice of love”.

He said he was not trying to change people’s political viewpoints, but said protest methods “have to be legal”.

Kwong’s interview was his first response to fierce criticism of his sermon last week.

In the sermon, delivered on July 6 at St Paul’s Church, Kwong touched on politics and questioned why Hong Kong people “speak up so much” and said Jesus remained silent when faced with crucifixion.

He appeared to mock protesters who had complained about being denied water and access to toilets after they were arrested during a sit-in protest in Central that followed the July 1 pro-democracy march.

Listen: Audio translation of part of a sermon given by Archbishop of HK Anglican Church telling congregants pro-democracy advocates should keep quiet

Kwong asked why they did not “bring along their Filipino maids”.

He also said pro-democracy demonstrators had fallen victim to a “herd mentality”.

Some fellow Anglicans called his words “outrageous”, while The Reverend Kwok Nai-wang – a senior pastor at the Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China – called them “inappropriate” and questioned whether Kwong’s membership of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference conflicted with his church duties.

In the newsletter interview, Kwong said he did not mean to discourage Christians from speaking up.

“Jesus remained silent as a lamb. The act in itself is a ‘voice’. His ‘voice’ was not confrontational, but a peaceful, tolerating, accepting ‘voice of love’,” he wrote.

“Have I not spoken out? Probably my voice is different from others,” he added.

He said he hoped this “approach” could inspire Christians considering how to engage with Hong Kong’s current political debates.

“What I don’t want to see most is a divided Hong Kong. I accept different political views among Christians, and I would not try to change their political stance. But [their] methods have to be legal, and with the love and humility of Christ.”

This had always been his stance regardless of his appointment to the CPPCC, he said. “The CPPCC role only allows me an opportunity to speak from another stage.”

Watch: What do Hongkongers think about Rev. Paul Kwong’s speech against pro-democracy advocates?

Kwong also denied being sarcastic about the protesters arrested after the July 1 march.

“I was not laughing at or belittling the [July 1] marchers,” he told the newsletter.

“I was only citing Jesus’s example in the Book of Matthew to illustrate my sermon’s theme: that is one can only have peace of mind with tenderness and humility.”