CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
Religious values help social development

HONG KONG (SE): Christian scholars pointed out at a recent forum at the University of Hong Kong that religion is an important part of civil society, as it can help build up a common vision among people.

The forum, running under the theme, Freedom, Civil Society and the State, was organised by the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the end of October to look into the relationship among the three elements.

It was presented as being a particularly relevant question in an era that is seeing many governments currently tightening control on personal freedom, but noted that in doing so, the social conflict and protest it is intended to counter, tends to boomerangs back in their face.

Speakers pointed out that historically, religious values have underpinned many businesses, at the same time as silently providing cohesion in the wider society.

But the trend to ignore religious values or regard as irrelevant is actually having a silent impact on both business and society, which cannot be immediately sensed.

The convener of the National Union of Journalists in England, David Campanale, used the example of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to illustrate one important contribution religion can make, pointing out that in its early days, the international broadcaster did operate according to Christian values.

Campanale recalled that John Reith, the founder and the first general manager of the BBC, used to bring Christian values to the company, as he believed that Christian ethics could give people better value formation in a way that is applicable to the development of society.

He described the BBC at the time as upholding the principle of reflecting public opinion, rather than yielding to pressure from any political party, a value which he said is quite removed from the operations of the present management.

Campanale said he believes that current management units in British organisations are, in general, facing the problem of lost moral values, or what he described as being void of any type of spirituality.

Consequently, he believes that people should look into the importance of Christianity in building up a sense of mission among their leaders.

He believes that the importance of independence in a media organisation is not well understood until something serious breaks out.

But he also pointed out that when religious values are forgotten, the ability of people to uphold other values is undermined too, together with the development of civic organisations.

He maintained that religious bodies can perform their role in a secular society, but warned that too strong a focus on spirituality weakens the strength of a religious body, as well as lessening their influence in the wider society and, consequently, actually feed the spread of secularism.

On the other hand, he pointed out that religions become stronger if they face society front on.

In an article by Jonathan Chaplin, the director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics in Cambridge, which was read in his absence, he said that he believes that a society can only thrive when the general public has become mature and civil bodies are able to develop independently without government intervention.

Chaplin observed that Beijing has indirectly strengthened its control of the civil society of Hong Kong. However, he noted that the special administrative region can set an example to the whole country if it can demonstrate that what China really needs is a mature civil society where freedom of religion and other aspects are properly protected.

He stressed that Christianity is one of the powers that can contribute to building up a vision for society and can be a helpful component in social development.

Bob Fu Xiqiu, the founder of the United States of America-based China Aid Association, said that there is no need for Beijing to worry about religious freedom, as it is conducive to social harmony.

However, where religion is in conflict with the state, he supports a bilateral approach, or dealing with issues in a harmonious rather than competitive manner.

More from this section