CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 12 August 2017

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His presence was his elocution

Christians, including many in the Catholic Church in Hong Kong adopted Liu Xiaobo as a prophet during his life time and, since his untimely death in a Chinese prison on July 13, embraced him as a martyr.
 
Liu was not a Christian or a Catholic, but his lifelong commitment to the truth and the great value he placed on the integrity of his own conscience remained the driving inspiration of his life—an inspiration that he suffered and ultimately died for.
 
Liu was a controversial figure in China from the time of his mediating involvement in the massed gathering of people demanding greater democracy in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
 
He suffered imprisonment on more than one occasion for his dedication to non-violent resistance in working to overcome forceful tyranny in his homeland.
 
He remained steadfastly faithful to his conscience to the very end. Even when he was offered the opportunity to leave China for the safety of the United States of America, he replied that he could not find it within himself to abandon his native land and, true to his conscience, he found his vocation in remaining to fight for the freedom of his own people.
 
At the time of his conviction on 25 December 2009 on charges of counter revolutionary propaganda and incitement, Or Yan-yan, from the Justice and Peace Commission, described Liu as representing universal values in common with Catholic teaching.
 
It is precisely the high value he placed on his personal conscience that identifies Liu with that fundamental spirit that imbues the Catholic Church at its core. It is this precise spirit that leaves dictatorial governments running scared of the Church and precisely this spirit that left Beijing running scared of Liu.
 
The spirit of personal conscience is the genius of the Catholic Church, which despite its weaknesses and foibles can and does empower people, even at times when as a human institution it may seem to be crumbling or in decay.
 
Even at its lowest ebb as a human institution, the imbued spirit of personal conscience that fortifies individuals to reinvent themselves and defy authority and repression remains intact, breeding what on the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 2014, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing called an expression of gratitude for the God-given opportunity to give witness and carry the responsibility of showing discontent at injustice.
 
He also pointed out that triumph is not the measure of success, but the voice of defiance crying in the face of violence and repression is, even though it may be a feeble one in a vast wilderness of tyranny.
 
“Victory does not necessarily come to the side with the biggest numbers, but to those with love and justice on their side,” Reverend Ralph Lee Ting-sun, the director of the Hong Kong Christian Council, said as he stood alongside Bishop Ha.
 
“When David fought Goliath he was armed only with a sling,” he pointed out. “We are not using force to influence others, but we are praying with love and with peace.”
 
From the inside of his prison cell, it was not Liu’s voice that stood in the way of ideology and on his death bed there was no opportunity for nobly stated cause—his very presence was his elocution. JiM