Christians Lend an Anthem, and a Pacifist Spirit, to Protests in Hong Kong - Word&Way

Christians Lend an Anthem, and a Pacifist Spirit, to Protests in Hong Kong

evening rally in Hong Kong
Protesters sing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”

Protesters sing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,” a hymn that has become the anthem of the pro-democracy protests, during a Christian rally on Aug. 23, 2019, in Hong Kong. RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

HONG KONG (RNS) — Since protests began more than 12 weeks ago over an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trial, the city’s Christian community has taken an active role.

Groups of Christians regularly participate in the marches that have coursed through Hong Kong’s streets every weekend since June, and their pleas for peaceful protests and their hymns and prayers are often heard along with protest chants. One hymn, “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,” written in 1974, has caught on as an anthem of the protests, sung by believers and nonbelievers alike.

The Christian hymn not only inspires: It grants the protesters some protection under a technicality in Hong Kong law of public assembly that exempts religious gatherings.

seminary student

Howard, a 26-year-old seminary student, shares his experiences from working in the front lines of the barricades during a large outdoor Christian service on Aug. 23, 2019, in Hong Kong. “Since the beginning of June, I have gone to the protests to provide young people with a positive mindset. As Christians, we have to know how to stand in front of the authorities and walk in the truth of God so we can have justice. In the Bible it says Jesus loves everyone, including the police, but the people from the front lines don’t love the police. I tell them God sees everyone, including the police and He will judge in the end.” RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

The bill that brought the protesters out into the streets has since been suspended, but the demonstrations have continued, turning into a larger campaign for democracy and for maintaining the “one country, two systems” model agreed upon when the former British colony returned to China in 1997.

The protests have sometimes turned violent. While some Hong Kong residents see violence as the only way to obtain their demands, many, including most Christians, choose to support the protests through peaceful means. The city’s Christians number about 900,000, or 12% of Hong Kong’s population of roughly 7.5 million.

group from a small Hong Kong church

A group from a small Hong Kong church voluntarily participates at a protest on Aug. 25, 2019. “We came to pray for the people, bless them and use our power of belief to help them. Our city is going in an extreme direction, but we hope we can bring some peace to the Hong Kong people,” they said. RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

Several Christian organizations have officially voiced their concerns over the extradition bill, including the Hong Kong Christian Council, the Catholic Diocese, the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong and the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church Union of Hong Kong. They have also urged the protesters to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

The protests have provided Christians with an opportunity to voice their concerns about religious freedom. If China ends the “one country, two systems” status quo, they fear, the persecution of religious denominations in mainland China may spread to Hong Kong.

forming human chain

Participants at the Christian rally were encouraged to form a human chain, in “The Hong Kong way” another peaceful protest initiative that took place at the same time, forming a 35 km human chain across various areas of Hong Kong. The initiative aimed to draw international attention on the ongoing crisis in a similar manner as “The Baltic Way,” one of the biggest anti Soviet protests that had its 30th anniversary on Aug. 23, 2019. RNS photo by Alexandra Radu

On Friday (Aug. 23), tens of thousands of people gathered in Chater Garden for the first large-scale political rally specifically for Christians. With the motto “Salt and light, for justice we walk together,” the rally aimed to “provide all Christians a platform to express themselves outside the church, hoping people would safeguard Hong Kong by singing, praying, worshipping God and at the same time speaking up for justice and standing together with all the Hongkongers in difficult times,” said a press release from the rally organizer.

evening rally in Hong Kong

More than 15,000 people attend an evening rally in Hong Kong on Aug. 23, 2019, the first large-scale political rally for Christians since the democracy movement started in June. Sunny, a 24-year-old pastor and organizer of the rally, said “We don’t have support from any organization, we are just Christians from different churches. We used social media to spread the information and people showed up.” RNS photo by Alexandra Radu