CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Taizé with an Asian tang

HONG KONG (SE): More than 200 people from east Asia joined a five-day Taizé programme of common prayer for peace from August 10 to 14 at the Ming Fei Caritas Camp in Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, which was also earmarked by much discussion over political tensions in the region.

The gathering featured a number of workshops on topics as varied as ecumenism, art, the environment, icon painting and Taizé music.

At a workshop on the importance to society of listening to the voices of young people, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing said that the Church should respect the opinions of young people. He added that since the Umbrella Movement of 2014 he believes that the Church in Hong Kong has made a real effort in this regard.

Reverend Chan Wing-fung, from the Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Communion), said that young people today are regarded as the weaker generation, but he does not believe this is true.

Reverend Chan encouraged the gathering to contribute to society in small ways in daily life, saying that while social harmony has been promoted over recent years, he does not believe that means that there can only be one voice, but rather a mutual respect among people regardless of difference in opinion.

Reverend Phyllis Wong Mei-fung, from the Kowloon Union Church, told the Kung Kao Po that Taizé is not only a sign of ecumenism, but also a key to transforming hearts and helping Christians to care about the marginalised.

“Ecumenical prayer can help people to experience God’s love, activate their souls as human beings and their feelings to the world and all creation, and thus their concern for others,” she said.

She explained that creating a peaceful atmosphere among people in daily life is one way the value of Christianity can be witnessed to in the workplace and general society.

Taizé Brother Shin Han-yol said that many of the young people who attended the programme, which ran under the theme of Pilgrimage of Trust and Reconciliation, had already served as volunteers at the Taizé Community in France.

Brother Shin said that a lot of them faced cultural challenges in a European setting and he was pleased to be able to host a similar gathering in Hong Kong, as the Asian tang makes it easier for many of them to navigate through the programme.

“The chopstick culture makes it easier for east Asian participants to communicate and familiarise themselves with each other,” he explained. “It is different for Asians joining similar gatherings in Europe.”

He added that Hong Kong is also a convenient location for participants from mainland China, Japan, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan, and even for the Australians that joined the workshop.

A Japanese participant, Yuriko Inoue, said she has joined three European gatherings on previous occasions, but she felt like an outsider and was more at home at her first Asian event.

“There are not many Christians in Japan,” Inoue said. “The smaller scale east Asia gatherings don’t make me feel like a minority. Unlike the European gatherings, where people eat individually, we eat together in the Asian style which gives us a chance to talk to someone we don’t know.”

But it will take more than a love of communal eating to solve the political tensions in the region between China and Japan regarding island ownership, and also between China and Taiwan over the one China issue.

While Brother Shin said that the Taizé gathering is not particularly a place to discuss politics and that everyone prayed in an atmosphere of love and communion, some of the participants said that they discussed social and political issues privately during meal times.

“People also talked about social issues at the European gatherings, but they were all European issues,” Inoue said. “In the east Asia gathering, the issues we talked about are closer to us and more connected to our life. That gives us the opportunity to reflect on how to be a bearer of peace in east Asia.”

UCAN reported that a woman from China said that she discussed the China-Taiwan political situation with Taiwanese participants during meal times, as she thought it was easier to talk in an all-Christian environment.

“In China, I dare not talk about politics, as I don’t know how people will react to my political views,” she said.

The last east Asia gathering was held in 2013 in Daejeon, South Korea.

This was the first time Hong Kong has hosted the gathering, although a small, unofficial one of about 50 people was held last year.

“It is a breakthrough for the local ecumenical movement, as 60 local Christians, mostly newly baptised from different denominations, came to join us on the last day,” James Kwok Sze-kwan, the programme coordinator, said.

The Courage of Mercy was proposed as the theme for 2016 gathering. Joy, simplicity and mercy are to be the three themes that will guide the community from now until 2018.

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