After pushback from diocese, Catholic group drops plan to run post-national security law prayer for Hong Kong in local newspaper
- Church officials said they took issue both with the crowdfunding campaign that would have paid for the ad as well as the content of the prayer
- Praying for deliverance from ‘oppression and slavery’ could be interpreted as ‘targeting the Hong Kong government’, local divinity professor suggests
Amid opposition from church leaders, a Hong Kong Catholic group has dropped a planned crowdfunding campaign that would have bought advertising space in a local newspaper to run a prayer for the city’s democratic development in light of the national security law’s imposition.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese said diocese leadership had decided the fundraising plan had to be stopped, as it disagreed both with the fundraising method and the content of the prayer.
The commission planned to run the prayer in the September 6 edition of the pro-opposition, Chinese-language Apple Daily, and began a crowdfunding campaign on Thursday to raise the money to do so.
In the introduction to the prayer, drafted by members of justice and peace organisations from several Asian countries, the group noted that Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences president Cardinal Charles Maung Bo had asked that prayers be offered up in view of the national security law’s recent enactment.
“Lord, you reward your faithful servants with prosperity, but for servants not of your mind, your justice will come and you will deliver your people from oppression and slavery,” the prayer reads.
“As the city of Hong Kong is under threats of abusive control, we pray for your mercy.
“Amongst adversaries and oppression, we believe your Word and Grace shall bring back the confidence and hope of your people.”
The Beijing-imposed law went into effect on June 30 and prohibits in broad terms any acts of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with external forces.
Kung Lap-yan, associate professor of the Chung Chi College divinity school at Chinese University, said that, from a theological perspective, the prayer did not contravene any tenets of the Catholic faith or teachings from the Bible.
“But in the context of Hong Kong, the message that ‘Lord deliver your people from oppression and slavery’ may be interpreted by some people as targeting the Hong Kong government,” Kung said.
“I think the Catholic Diocese doesn’t want to send the message that the church supports protests against the authorities.”
He said some institutions such as religious organisations and schools had exercised a certain degree of self-censorship following the imposition of the national security law.
Chan Shun-hing, a professor with Baptist University’s department of religion and philosophy, said the Catholic Diocese’s decision was understandable after the implementation of the national security law, but it was not the best way to handle the issue.
“The commission may hope to connect the Catholic Church and civil society through the crowdfunding campaign,” he said. “But church leaders are unwilling to see such a connection, as it may put them in the forefront of the anti-government movement after the national security law came into force.”
The Catholic Diocese did not respond to the Post’s inquiry yesterday.
A source familiar with the situation said crowdfunding had been frequently used by religious groups and non-governmental organisations in the past two decades for the purpose of taking out advertisements in newspapers.
Father Stephen Chan Mun-hung said the Catholic Diocese was empowered to give instruction to the commission.
“But it’s up to members of the public to make their judgment on the matter,” he said.