ATLANTA (ABP) – Former President Jimmy Carter was in Hong Kong Dec. 12 to formally launch a joint venture between the Carter Center and Hong Kong Baptist University.
The Carter Center — Hong Kong Baptist University Initiative aims to draw on strengths of both institutions to collaborate on a range of projects in educational, social and humanitarian areas both in Hong Kong and mainland China.
“Hong Kong Baptist University is a unique institution that is built upon the heritage of Christians in higher education,” Carter said in a video greeting. “It is dedicated to the promotion of ‘Whole Person Education.’ It encourages students to incorporate spiritual development into their academic and full curricula activities. This whole-person education ethos aligns closely with the mission of the Carter Center, which is committed to promoting human rights and alleviating human suffering.”
According to a news release, Carter Center — Hong Kong Baptist University Initiative is the first institutional tie outside of the United States for the Carter Center, established in 1982 at Emory University in Atlanta to advance human rights, global health care and conflict resolution, and to aid fledgling democracies by providing support such as election monitoring.
Fundraising is underway to make available new study, research and volunteer opportunities to students, including internships and scholarships. The center will also collaborate with the Special Olympics and related organizations to empower people challenged by mental illness and developmental disabilities.
At the recent New Baptist Covenant II gatherings simulcast from Atlanta, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter identified mental health as a moral issue often overlooked by the church. She accompanied her husband to the Dec. 12 ceremony, also attended by Carter Center President and CEO John Hardman.
Speakers at the ceremony included university President Albert Chan. “This Initiative will focus on health communication and world peace, with emphasis on education, research and knowledge transfer,” he said. “We hope that with the support and expertise of the Carter Center, HKBU can further its mission of delivering Whole Person Education and become a strong partner in the quest for a better tomorrow.”
According to Chinese media, one possible outcome of the new venture might be Carter Center involvement in election monitoring when Hong Kong is able to directly elect its leaders. Currently in Hong Kong, transferred in 1997 to the People’s Republic of China after more 150 years of British rule, leaders including the chief executive are chosen indirectly through an electoral college. Hong Kong Baptist University could function as a think tank in implementing democratic reform commonly discussed as “universal suffrage.”
While the initiative represents a new level of overseas connection for the Carter Center, it isn’t the first time the two organizations have worked together. Founded by the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong in 1956, the university has helped the Carter Center with research on village elections and health issues on the mainland during the last decade. Hong Kong Baptist University awarded an honorary doctorate to President Carter in November.
“I hope the Carter Center can work closely with the faculty and students of the university in making this world a better place,” said Carter, the 39th president of the United States and 2002 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.