CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 April 2017

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Let’s just love what God gives to us all

HONG KONG (SE): “I just want to show something of the unspoiled beauty of God’s creation that is currently under threat from the desire of our society to consume,” Hong Kong photographer, Francis Tong, told the Sunday Examiner on November 18, the opening night of an exhibition of her work from Fukushima, Japan, taken prior to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and consequent environmental threat from the damaged Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Dubbed The Heart of Goodness Charity Photo Exhibition, the entire collection is made up of 53 mounted photographs of the extraordinary beauty of the rugged mountains and calm lakes of the Fukushima area, with about 30 selected ones on display at the SR Gallery Café in Causeway Bay.

The exhibition will be open every day from 11.00am until 9.00pm until December 17.

“Over the years, it has become my spiritual home,” Tong said, explaining that she has been visiting Fukushima for years.

“A photo shoot is like a retreat,” she went on. “It is like being at one with the beauty of God’s creation, without the cosmetics of modern civilisation.”

Tong explained, “There is a moment I can breath in unison with nature. In the silence, there is utter respect, love and non-intrusion. Then I shoot,” she went on.

“It is the same beauty that is reflected in all of us. We are created in the image of God. The beauty is there, our challenge is to notice and appreciate it,” she continued.

“The world was shocked at the March 11 disaster,” Tong noted. “And I was shattered at the thought of what was happening to the beautiful people I had met there and the beauty of God’s creation that was being threatened.”

She added, “I had to respond. With some other interested people we founded Friends of Fukushima and began collecting relief goods. We used my father’s office as a collection point and sent off over 1,000 cartons.

“But I knew the suffering and the threat was ongoing and wanted to do something that was ongoing. I think of the 960 people among the 25,000 survivors who have already committed suicide out of despair, the people who daily go into the nuclear facility in an effort to contain the possible damage. The outside world must not forget them.

“They are putting their lives on the line,” Tong continued. “Like Jesus said, ‘No greater love has a man than that he lay his life down for his friends’. That is what they are doing and we must appreciate that.”

She added that this heart of goodness is in everyone of us and we can celebrate it in our giving.

“And children are suffering. A concerned group of local people has set up a community organisation called the Kodomo (Children’s) Network to try and ensure that the children get proper medical treatment and ongoing care. We are investigating supporting that, as well as those who go into the nuclear plant every day.”

Tong said that if all her photographs can be sold during the four months that the exhibition will travel around Hong Kong, the group will be able offer up to $1 million to these under-resourced groups. “But we will do our homework to make sure the money goes where it can be used well,” she added.

Tong reflected that living in a place like Hong Kong, we do not see where the items that we consume come from.

“We do not know what damage our hunger for electricity, computer products, cars and all the things we use in our everyday life, causes,” she explained.

“We benefit from mining, but do not have to live with the after effects or the damage to the environment that it does. So it is hard to appreciate the consequences of some of our actions and decisions,” Tong reflected.

“In my exhibition I hope I can just do a little bit towards creating this consciousness among people, so we can at least think twice about what some of our choices and desires can destroy.”

The graduate from Mount Saint Margaret’s College in Happy Valley said that in many ways we need a healing with nature, a remaking of our relationship with it.

“We need to think and ponder how to take care of the environment,” she continued.

Tong presents her photographs around the themes of waiting, union, harmony, touch and gratitude. “Waiting for sunrise is a prayer,” she said. “I contemplate my numb feet, the darkness that envelops me. There is no sense of time.”

But when the first peep of light resurrects the world from slumber there is a cleansing and a harmony, as the landscape evolves from shadow, to mist, to tinged hues of the rainbow; and the earth, sky and water tire from their struggle to dominate the eye and embrace in  a glorious manifestation of God’s beauty.

“It is cleansing,” Tong explained. “I am with the treasures of the earth. It is a union between me and God. There are no more desires. It is like a Transfiguration. It is the ‘Lord, it is good that we are here’ feeling.”

Tong described it as being like God playing in front of her. “It is like God is doing things in front of me. I am privileged he does them for me and I want to show them to others,” she reflected.

“This exhibition is an expression of my gratitude for what I have been given. I am thankful for what I have experienced. All the love from God, from nature, from the workers who go into the nuclear plant everyday,” Tong said.

“But I know what I do is minimal. But I want to pay tribute. I want to pay tribute to my family, the Filipino lady who was with our family for over 20 years and who loved us dearly, the Columban sisters who educated me and taught me about the beauty of God. It is part of my thank you,” she said.

“I am also grateful to our sponsors at the exhibition. Canon cameras; the Greenfield Foundation that is jointly presenting this exhibition; Hahnemühle, that donated the high quality art paper for the printing of the photos; the SR Gallery and Man Yee Archade, where they will be exhibited in February; and the Acumen Design company, as well as the Japanese consulate general.”

However, Tong added that she believes part of our giving must also be to the earth itself.

She reflected, “The ultimate solution is to adopt a lifestyle that reduces our carbon footprint and frees us from the excessive dependence on the earth’s limited resources.”